Is there genuine citizen engagement in Burlington? City hall says - definitely - thousands of citizens don't share that view.


News 100 blackBy Pepper Parr

November 23rd, 2017



What is wrong with this picture?

City hall tells a group of citizens they cannot use space at city hall for a community meeting organized by a group that is opposed to a decision city council made to approve a 23 storey tower in the downtown core.

A week earlier the city announced a workshop on Cultivating the Power & Possibility of Citizen Leadership: Creating Caring and Resilient Communities.

The fee for this workshop is $175.

There are currently two well organized groups challenging city hall on significant matters;

TEC stop quarry expansion Jul17The Tyendaga Environmental Coalition wants the city to step in and support their fight to prevent a shale mining operation from beginning to mine a quarry that is yards from their homes.

PLAN BThe Plan B group wants a better deal for the re-development of the Waterfront Hotel.

Less than six months ago city council attempted to limit the amount of time residents could have to delegate at city council meetings. The residents won that battle.

There are a lot of people who want to see genuine community involvement and not just lip service from those elected to run the city.

Quite recently the city had staff congratulating themselves for an award they were given for the quality of the city’s community engagement.

It is difficult not to be cynical when all the evidence is looked at.

It wouldn’t take much to pull together a group of at least 500 people who would stand at say that their city does not listen to them.

The video the city posted on how engaged they think they are is like something out of a book written by George Orwell.

The only person who has said formally that they will be running for public office in the October 2018 municipal election is the Mayor – he wants a third term.

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6 comments to Is there genuine citizen engagement in Burlington? City hall says – definitely – thousands of citizens don’t share that view.

  • Stephen White

    Replacing the Mayor and Council is just part of the equation. The other part that shouldn’t be overlooked is replacing the public servants who dispense the advice in the first place.

    Too high a premium is placed on the opinions and perspectives of so-called experts such as Toderian. There is
    a clear ideological agenda that is being followed especially as it relates to zoning issues and intensification. Input and feedback from taxpayers receives perfunctory attention at best. One only has to look at the sham consultation that surrounded discussions on the Mobility Hubs. Planning officials were told repeatedly by those in attendance that the designs and re-designs did not reflect attendees’ perspectives. Questions around traffic congestion, schools, the fate of existing properties, etc. were ignored.

    Garbage in, garbage out!

  • Marshall

    Allison, you missed Ward 4. Replacement of its’ councillor should be the prime goal of everyone in the ward.

  • Phillip

    My experience with engagement in this City is that it is strictly a public relations exercise. Residents are invited to speak but the City doesn’t listen.
    Goldring pays attention to the bureaucrats, especially the Toderian 2, special interests and lobbyists but merely pays lip-service to “engagement”. In every instance that I know of, I get the feeling that the decision has already been made and residents are presented with a “fait accompli”. I agree with Allison, Marianne is the ONLY member of council who is actively engaged with residents and listens to them. Change is coming–only 11 months to go!!!

  • craig gardner

    I have found Blair Lancaster to always be available to answer questions provide info and attend events when requested and she is in my ward but that is not downtown where all the negativity seems to be coming from.

    • Joe Gaetan

      Craig: I believe most councilors are astute enough to look after their own ward, which partially explains why they are re-elected. When it comes to voting on an issue in another ward (i.e Downtown is in Ward 2 ) there is little downside if their votes have a negative effect on that ward. Except in this case downtown Burlington just happens to belong to all of us and what you call “negativity” some would call citizen engagement. When council voted against the planning recommendation for the Alton development, I believe they were supporting the residents of ward 6. In approving 421 Brant they did not support the wishes of the ward 2 residents, or the city. I am glad that you think enough of your councilor to take a stand for her.

  • Allison

    Add mine to the list of citizens who don’t believe – with one notable exception – that the City is interested in engagement. Marianne Meed Ward is visible and engaged and makes time to meet with and listen to her constituents. She absolutely embraces the idea that her voice is on behalf of the citizens of Ward 2. The rest are completely uninterested in listening and staff (who the council leaves to run everything as they please on behalf of developers) are indifferent to hostile. I delegated on an issue of importance to my community and the members of the public who attended were treated with rudeness and disrespect. I hope others with more of a civic commitment step up to replace the councillors in Wards 1 and 3-6 (and perhaps 2 as well if Marianne runs for mayor).