Major organizational moves by the city manager seem to be out of focus.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

December 15th, 2017


We received the following this morning:

The article published in this morning’s Gazette titled “Major organizational moves by the city manager seem to be out of focus” is wholly inaccurate for the following reasons:

Parks & Recreation has NOT been merged into Roads, Parks & Forestry (RPF). Parks & Recreation continues to be a separate department headed by Chris Glenn

There has been no reorganization undertaken by the city manager, except the creation of a deputy city manager position and changes to department names only.

Council was fully briefed and aware of the creation of a deputy city manager position, to say so otherwise in incorrect.

Mary Lou Tanner will continue to lead the Official Plan and the Mobility Hub initiatives as deputy city manager; a competition to hire a new Director of Planning will begin in January.

Ms Tanner’s appointment as the deputy city manager was in no way a demotion and as previously stated was a result of a comprehensive internal competition

On November 9th, the City Manager, James Ridge announced a renaming of departments at city hall and moving responsibilities into the newly named departments under the people who were to head them up.

The renaming of the departments in the city was to more accurately reflect the services that are provided to residents.

News anal BLACKAs of Jan. 1, 2018 Roads and Parks Maintenance will become the Roads, Parks and Forestry Department; with Mary Battaglia as lead.

Planning and Building will become the Department of City Building – Planning, Building and Culture with Mary Lou Tanner as lead.

Then on December 9th, Ridge announced that he had appointed Mary Lou Tanner as the deputy city manager after a comprehensive internal competition.

There is something about this picture that is out of focus.

If it was a “comprehensive internal competition”, and we will take the city manager’s word that it was – the competition had to be announced, those wanting to go after the job had to prepare their application, fine tune it, submit it and then let the Director of Human Resources and the City Manager review what they had.

The Director of Human Resources may well have been one of the applicants for the new position; we will let that slide.


Newly minted Deputy City Manager Mary Lou Tanner

Re-org November 9th, Tanner made deputy city manager December 9th – All this got done in less than a month?

What does the appointing of Tanner as Deputy City Manager do to the absolutely critical work being done on the planning side?

As of the 21st of this month the city doesn’t have a Planner. Tanner, the woman who was doing the job is now the “city’s representative for all Agencies, Boards and Commissions; acting in an advisory and liaison capacity for each organization and helping plan and coordinate major capital projects.”

Not much in the way of executive authority there

“Being responsible for the diversity and inclusivity portfolio; ensuring a strategy is developed, and implemented across the organization for all services and programs.”

Important but not the same level of influence as the Director of Planning

“Overseeing the Project Management Office, ensuring the priorities of this office are aligned with the Strategic Plan and corporate work plans and work with the Senior Leadership team to identify and establish priorities across the organization.”

James Ridge

City Manager James Ridge – now has a Deputy to aid the important work he does,

Tanner was a part of the Senior Leadership Team – now she “works with them”.  Will Tanner have any clout? Will she be making decisions or does everything she does slide up to the desk of the City Manager?

There is going to be a “transition plan including an acting Director of City Building will be announced in the near future; however in the meantime Tanner will continue to lead the work on the completion of the city’s new Official Plan.”

How much of this were the city Councillors fully aware of?  The City Manager is responsible for the administration of all city staff and serves at the pleasure of city council. Is Council pleased?

The time line for the approval of the Official Plan has been stretched out to April of 2018 from the original end of January 2018 date.

None of this looks very encouraging – we are changing horses in the middle of a fast flowing stream.


Chris Glenn

Director of Parks and Recreation Chris Glenn

There some additional concerns.  Parks and Recreation is now merged in intro Roads Parks and Forestry under the direction of Mary Battaglia who is a Director. She now has Chris Glenn, also a Director working under her?

Transportation doesn’t seem to have a home at a time when there are several significant studies being done on just how people are going to get around the city given all the intensification that is to take place.
Where does Capital Works fit into the new organization?

On Friday, the 8th of December we had occasion to be at the Fire department following up part on a news story and met with a deputy fire chief who advised us that the Fire Chief was still on the site of the blaze that shut down the Paletta operation in the south-east of the city.

That’s where a Fire Chief is supposed to be – where the problems are. The fire was basically out – with some hot spots that needed a close watch to ensure that they didn’t flare up.

city hall with flag poles

Is the apparent senior staff reorganization a good one or is it a picture out of focus.

The city has a problem – getting the new Official Plan in place and helping the citizens understand the mobility hubs. It is seen as a “hot spot” to hundreds of informed and involved people in Burlington. This is not a time to have senior staff fully immersed in the work they are in place to do.

Being made Deputy City Manager doesn’t look like a promotion – looks like the City Manager just got someone out of the way

And that is very troubling.

Links to related news stories:

Appointment of Deputy city manager.

Renaming of city departments.

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2 comments to Major organizational moves by the city manager seem to be out of focus.

  • Stephen White

    Roads, Parks & Forestry doesn’t combine logical entitles anymore than Planning, Building and Culture does. Departments have distinct corporate cultures and priorities, and when you combine dissimilar entities what ends up happening is a conflict of values and working styles. What also happens is certain projects and issues championed for lesser parties get subsumed by higher priorities.

    This restructuring is indicative of an organization operating under a siege mentality with no clear focus or vision. Clearly, the Mobility Hubs discussion and the Official Plan are tanking under a barrage of questioning and public criticism. The next thing we’ll see is the hiring an expensive consulting firm to come in and conduct an organizational review to tell us what we already know: City Hall is a mess!!!

    • Phillip

      I’d prefer the consulting firm next December since we will need to set aside enough money to pay the severance of several bureaucrats, starting with the Toderian Two. Increasingly these bureaucrats seem to be calling the shots at City Hall.