If you can't change the culture and you can’t change the behaviour then the only real option is to change the players. City manager and the Mayor are the lead players.

opinionandcommentBy Stephen White

March 8, 2018



Admittedly I’m not a big fan of the City Manager’s style, but James Ridge isn’t the only problem or the biggest one.

Continuity and consistency is the hallmark of a good organization. If the City of Burlington were a publicly corporation, and that corporation had gone through four CEO’s in six years, someone on the Board of Directors would be asking the inevitable question: why?


City manager Jeff Fielding: About to put his stamp on the way the city has to be run.

Jeff Fielding got an offer he couldn’t refuse – Calgary; the city with one of the smartest Mayor’s in the country.

Roman Martiukformer Burlington City Manager, was often described as someone who thought he was the smartest man in the room - quite often he was and many people couldn't deal with that.

Roman Martiuk a former Burlington City Manager was given a one way ticket out of town.

Patrick Moyle

Pat Moyle came to town to do a job, got it done and went south – it was getting cold.

Turnover is usually indicative of a much broader problem. That, in itself, presupposes an investigation, and truthfully, that is best conducted by a neutral third party who, ideally, would probe for reasons, issues, concerns as well as solutions.

Based on what I have seen a big part of the problem at City Hall comes down to a lack of alignment, a lack of genuine engagement, and a dysfunctional corporate culture. You have a Mayor and a City Manager who, frankly, have a vision that does not strongly resonate with many citizens. Public trust is seriously lacking.

You have a Council with a very broad array of personalities and personal agendas, many of whom have been on Council way too long, are seriously disconnected from mainstream opinion, and often appear to be mouthpieces for special interest groups.

You have a Planning Department spearheading a major initiative that, to put it kindly, has gone seriously awry.

Grow bold - front doorFinally, you have an electorate that is growing increasingly militant and is uncomfortable with not just the vision ( OP, intensification, Mobility Hubs) but with a perceived lack of receptivity and understanding from both elected and appointed officials.

This is not a good dynamic, and it does not bode favourably for those at City Hall. If you can’t change the culture and you can’t change the behaviour then the only real option is to change the players. Since the Mayor and the City Manager set the tone for the organization that’s usually the place to start.

Stephen White is a Human Resources specialist with experience in the finance sector – banking and the civil service – provincial. He is a resident of Burlington.



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11 comments to If you can’t change the culture and you can’t change the behaviour then the only real option is to change the players. City manager and the Mayor are the lead players.

  • CMG

    I think a lot of Burlington residents are worried about big city problems that come with a big city (crime, congestion, homelessness, noise, etc), and don’t feel that we are adequately prepared to handle that so soon and so quickly. In my opinion, there is a problem of rampant gentrification going on in Burlington and the surrounding area. One need only look at what took place last weekend in Hamilton. Don’t get me wrong; gentrification is a sign of healthy city development, however, when people are not stopping to think twice about paying $4.50 for a donut or a cupcake, who are we kidding? There has to be something for everyone in a city, and the protesters in Hamilton (the “Ungovernables”), while we cannot condone their evasive and destructive actions, we have to try to understand that more and more people are beginning to feel marginalized in their own city when all it has to offer is high-priced high-rises. There needs to be more in the mid-range, both in terms of height and cost, to keep a balance in our downtown.

  • Nancy Cunningham

    Excellent summarization Stephen. Thank You for capturing the true essence of how many Burlington residents feel about their current Municipal Government. Time for change!!

  • James Smith

    Interesting side note. I left Burlie 2 1/2 years ago but I continue to get updates on Burlie’s Official Plan. I doubt that the administration isn’t only engaging with former residents on the OP. Perhaps what’s been proposed is appreciated by the majority of residents who’s opined on the planning process of the OP.

    • Tom Muir


      The vote count here, including yourself once, and myself, in opposition, is 5 to 2, and a significant majority, that is counter to your perhaps assertion.

      I would really like to see an observable sample that supports what you say is the majority of residents appreciating the planning process of the OP.

      It would do everyone a great big favor. Do you have one?

      The Gazette comments archive is an observable sample that can be used to test your assertion (also asserted by a few others that I can identify by name, but will not) with real data.

      This OP process, and related development proposals and approvals, has stirred up a citizen storm, that has brought out a bunch of new names, commenting here and in Meed Ward’s newsletter.

      From my sense in reading these, without doing an actual count except from memory, most are opposed and don’t support your assertion, or, for that matter, the sentiment expressed by Walter Mulkewich above. It seems similar to the count shown here.

      You can also see it at Council. And neighborhood and Council meetings, and written delegations. Pretty clear opposition in Aldershot, Downtown, 2100 Brant St, Alton in the north, are examples showing universal emergence of opposition. Universal NIMBY?

      I don’t know about the rest of town as I have not looked and the Councilors are mute. Maybe the revelation that the OPs contain “Notwithstanding” clauses, and “site specific” application permissions that open up the entire city, including single family, low density neighborhoods, to intensification, has not sank in and the Councilors aren’t talking.

      Oh yeah, they have told us throughout this OP process that this will not be allowed, and these neighborhoods are protected, over and over, more times that I can remember.

      Add to this the fact that you say you left “Burlie” 2 1/2 years ago, so you may have not noticed that the pier ownership debacle was inherited by the Mayor. And that the OP debacle has fully eclipsed that sunk cost.

      So if you really want to support what you say, and do us all a favor, fully census the Gazette archive on this issue for the 2 1/2 years you have been gone. And get up to date on the controversy and issue details.

      I’m sure the Gazette would give you some selection key word advice to aid in this.

      So I suggest that instead of side-notes from afar, you could take this worthy project on to support yourself and do us all a favor.

  • EOB


    That’s it in a nutshell.
    You just have to attend a City Council Planning and Development meeting to observe the dynamic between the Planning Department and Councillors.
    Planning Dept got it wrong. Councillors won’t push the requested changes or delay the OP approval.
    The resulting disconnect from citizens and an unhappy electorate, to my mind, constitute “substantive evidence”. Well said Stephen.

  • James Smith

    As NIMBY as many in Burlie seem to be, Mr Goldring has been elected three times; twice as Mayor. This after dumping between 10 & 20 million into the lake, so he must have some support

  • bonnie

    Could not agree more Stephen. Thank you for putting into words what many are saying.

  • Ray Rivers

    Well said Stephen – But more than the mayor, I can’t believe that some councillors, like Taylor and Dennison, are still on Council some twenty years after I last had lived in Burlington. There should be term limits – perhaps two terms – to ensure that the deadwood move on, and to break up the little cliques that inevitably develop.

  • Walter Mulkewich

    An unfortunate opinion piece without substantive evidence, and, therefore suspect.

    • Stu Parr

      An interesting comment Mr. Mulkewich – what “substantive evidence” would you generally expect from an “opinion piece”? I believe that Mr. White is uncomfortably close to the mark.

    • Stephen White

      What’s suspect about it Walter? The fact that we’ve had multiple City Managers over the past 6 years? The fact that there has been little change and not much new blood on Council over the past twenty years? The fact that there is widespread dissent throughout the City over the OP and Mobility Hubs? The fact that multiple residents throughout the City who have delegated over the past year have been treated with casual indifference? Or the fact that the so-called “consultation process” as gone seriously amuck? If you had actually bothered to attend some of the consultations or Council meetings at City Hall recently you would have seen it for yourself. No mere coincidence that so many writers in the Gazette have expressed the same sentiments.

      Here’s what I think is unfortunate. A former Mayor who chooses to side with the status quo in the face of overwhelming evidence that something is sadly amiss at City Hall. Ignoring a problem doesn’t make it better, and doesn’t make it go away.