Mayor has now determined the kind of message he wants to send out – it won’t be show business.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON September 28, 2012   Every Mayor decides at some point, what kind of a mark they want to make on the city they are leading.  That mark is a combination of their hopes and dreams for the city; their background and experience and then the people they know who can help them fashion the mark they are going to leave.

That’s the dream – and it bumps into the cold hard reality of the world of politics and people and the economy they have to deal with.

There is a load of frustration and disappointment in being a Mayor and while many think the Mayor is “popular” and can call anyone for help – the truth is – it is very, very lonely at the top.

Saturday evening the Mayor’s Cabaret will be held at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre.  Getting the production to the stage was a bumpy road.  A delay with the show date and a tremendous amount of work by the Mayor’s staff hasn’t produced the results they wanted.  These events have to be carefully worked through to determine who the audience is supposed to be and then figuring out how you get them into the building.

It isn’t going to be a sold out event – and there probably won’t be a second Cabaret.

Burlington doesn’t have a long tradition of Gala’s headed up by the Mayor.  This type of event became popular in the 90’s with former Mayor Rob MacIsaac holding the first event and using it to raise funds for the Community Development Foundation.

Former Mayor Jackson ran a different kind of Gala and then ran afoul of the city manager and didn’t hold an event his last year in office.

Mayor Jackson ran a different form of Gala and then ran into some difficulty during his final year in office with his event.  Jackson went on to lose the election – not because of the way his Gala`s were run we might add.  After leaving City Hall Jackson became a lobbyist for a professional organization.  We are advised that he has since left the group he was representing.

There are former Mayors who don`t feel events like this should be run out of the Mayor`s office.  Mayor Goldring has found that putting on an event like this eats up far too much of his staffs’ time.

The event won`t be a bust – but it will probably be the last one sponsored by the Mayor.

Rick Goldring is doing something else that matters – and it is with his Inspire series of speakers that we can expect to see change – albeit not in the short term.  Planting new ideas in the minds of a community that tends not to take on new ideas easily is a challenge.  What Goldring has done is find speakers who have ideas and something to say that can lead the city in a different direction and give us something to base our decisions upon.

The first speaker was Chris Hume of the Toronto Star who made no bones about what he thought of what McMaster University had done to the city.  He saw their decision to back out of putting a campus into the downtown core as “morally repugnant”

Hume got the event off to a strong start and it has been uphill from there.  The events have been held at McMaster’s DeGroote campus on the South Service Road but have moved to the Performing Arts Centre where they come close to full house events.

The speaker at the Mayor’s next Inspire series will be Dr. Samir K. Sinha, Director of Geriatrics, Mount Sinai and the University Health Network Hospital

And it is on this level, stimulating the minds and the imaginations of the community where Mayor Goldring has chosen to make his mark.  Later this Month Dr. Samir K. Sinha, Director of Geriatrics, Mount Sinai and the University Health Network Hospitals, will speak on how we care for our aging population, which for Burlington is going to be a huge challenge.

While it is the hospital that will actually deliver that care – it is the community that is going to have to communicate to the hospital what kind of care that it wants, needs and is prepared to pay for.  The $60 million given to the hospital by the city on behalf of its taxpayers has to stand for something.

Ken Greenberg explained the role the large pension funds are playing in the development of the downtown cores of Mississauga and how his group had worked with developers in Toronto.

It is now clear what this Mayor wants to do – he wants to get people thinking; he wants to bring new ideas to the table and create discussions that result in a public ready to do things differently.  He has certainly brought in excellent speakers.  Andre Picard talked about where the public health business was going; Ken Greenberg talked about the way major developments were being done and who the players were in the development game.

Gil Penalosa  told the city how we could make more and better use of bikes and “create vibrant and healthy cities for all: from 8 to 80 years old”. His focus was the design and use of parks and streets as great public places, as well as on walking and cycling for recreation and transportation. Out of that talk came the two Car Free Sundays we had this summer.  One of the two was a strong success – closing Brant Street didn’t go as well.  Will we do it again?  We should.

The city got a bronze level award for the way we have begun to focus on getting people outdoors and using bicycles more frequently.  Burlington loves getting awards and this one will probably spur the city into doing more bike related stuff.  There is a night ride scheduled by a group in the city this weekend.

The two Car Free Sundays went well enough to try again next summer – although many of the people stuck in their cars may not think it was a good idea.  The idea was to get those people out of their cars.

All very good speakers – BUT, and this is not meant to rain on the Mayor’s parade – is anyone listening to these speakers; are they being heard?  The city is currently looking into what it wants to do and can do with its employment lands – those properties that will hold the office buildings and high tech, high value added manufacturing operations the city needs.

Time and again we hear the consultants we hire telling council to “do your homework”.  The Molinaro’s recently announced the purchase of the large lot in front of the GO station on Fairview, to the east of Wal-Mart and will be moving forward with their plans to develop the property.

During the Workshop the city held earlier in the week on the Employment Lands Councillor Jack Dennison (Ward 4) asked if maybe the Molinaro’s could be asked to include an office building in their plans.  The Molinaro’s  didn’t get to where they are with that kind of woolly thinking.  They have already decided what they want to do with that property and have it all costed out.

That the city doesn’t know what they have planned suggests that perhaps some Council members are still using rotary dial telephones and have forgotten how to use them.

The Mayor fully understands the gravity of the problems we have and he is doing a part of the job that needs to be done.  He does need to immerse himself into the talks with the developers and not leave that to the Economic Development people – nothing is getting done over there.

But the Mayor can’t do it all – the rest of us have to do our homework.

If we don’t do things differently – we won’t continue to exist.

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