Mayor tells a sold out crowd that the city is doing just fine – said the same thing last year.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  January 24, 2013   Mayor Rick Goldring delivered his third State of the City address to a sold out audience at the Burlington Convention Centre:

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen and thank you for taking time from your busy schedules to attend this year’s State of the City Address. This is my third address and it is something I look forward to every year.

Before I go any further, there are several people I want to thank and acknowledge. The Chamber of Commerce for not only hosting today’s event, but for your relentless efforts in advocating for business and increased prosperity in Burlington.

Throughout the first half of this his first term as Mayor, Rick Goldring has been out in the community talking and listening; doing what a Mayor us supposed to do.

I would like to thank today’s sponsors – Scotia Bank, Bell, Certified Management Accountants and The Centre for Skills Development & Training. Events like these would not be possible without the support of our valued community sponsors.

I also want to thank TVCogeco for broadcasting this address to those who cannot attend in person or are here today but want a repeat viewing. An informed community is an engaged community.

I would also like to thank and introduce my Council colleagues: Councillors Rick Craven, Marianne Meed Ward, John Taylor, Jack Dennison, Paul Sharman, and Blair Lancaster. Of the many achievements we have accomplished, what I value the most from you is the professionalism, dedication, and collaboration you bring day in and day out. While differences of opinion arise from time to time, as they do and must in great councils, the interests of our constituents’ and the City always remain first and foremost. I can honestly say this Council is focused on and committed to the tasks at hand and the people of Burlington. Burlington is a fine example of the effectiveness of municipal government.

City management and staff – we are proud and fortunate to have a fine team that serves the needs of our community, often without fanfare or notice. You are the backbone of our daily lives, making sure that the vital, in-demand services you provide each day are done professionally, efficiently, and with our customers in mind. I would like to introduce two of our three senior executive teams – both Jeff Fielding, City Manager and Kim Phillips, General Manager of Community Services are with us this morning.

And to the people of Burlington: it is truly an honour and privilege to serve you.

This year’s State of the City Address is a time to review our performance and share our upcoming priorities and opportunities. It is a measurable and transparent scorecard, which reflects three core themes that are important to this council: strong governance, accountability, and community aspirations.

This morning’s address is divided into three areas:

1. 2012 in Review

2. Looking Ahead: 2013 and Beyond

3. The Long Term Vision for the Future

2012 in Review

As we all know, the global economy remains seriously challenged. With escalating debt levels and an uncertain economic horizon, governments around the world, at all levels, are challenged in maintaining highly valued, if not essential services, despite an ever straining tax base. Burlington is not immune to these head winds.

But as we also know, Canada has, to date, been able to weather through these difficult times better than most countries. With Burlington’s location, talent and creativity, we have forged a road ahead, on our own terms, accomplishing impressive wins for our community.

I will go through the key highlights of 2012 now, but if you want details, please refer to report we are releasing today: “The Sum of 2012”which is available here and on the city’s website.

I invite you to view it at your leisure to see all the great and tireless work being done by so many in our great city. I want to thank the city manager’s offices, our communications department and my staff for their hard work.

Burlington’s robust economy continued to grow in 2012.

• 680 new full-time jobs and 220 new businesses were created.

• Our unemployment rate is at 6.0%, which remains lower than the provincial average of 7.8%.

• In 2012, Burlington issued 2,138 building permits having a construction value of over $425 million.

• The office vacancy rate has fallen to 10.5% from significantly higher levels only a few years ago.

• More businesses are either coming or expanding in Burlington. The industrial vacancy rate is down to 5.5%, a low mark.

Meeting after meeting listening, making comments and doing what a Mayor is supposed to do

I am pleased to advise that the re-development of Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital is on track. The contribution agreement for the City’s $60 million was finalized last year. City staff are currently working on the site plan application for Phase 1 of the project and we expect this part of the process to be completed relatively soon.

I am very pleased to advise that meaningful progress has been made on the Brant Street Pier in 2012. Work has continued in the winter and staff expect the ribbon to be cut in June.

As you know, the City of Burlington and Halton Region strongly opposed the expansion of the Nelson Quarry, which is nestled on the Niagara Escarpment in a designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. A Joint Board decision that undeniably supported our position was reached in October.

Prior to becoming Mayor, I identified the need to review our Downtown plans and get back on track. Council established a downtown task force early in the term to update these plans, which incorporate the waterfront, and we continue to receive feedback from across the City. On November 6, a Downtown Vision Workshop was held at the Burlington Art Centre and I was inspired by the number and energy of the participants, who shared their vision and ideas. The key findings from this summit will form an important component of our Official Plan Review.

Back in 2011, I determined that local graduates were not finding career opportunities in Burlington. I was concerned about losing our best and brightest. Determined to change that, innovateBurlington was created along with several community partners. I’m pleased to report that innovateBurlington has been a huge success with:

10 graduates participating in the program this first year;

• 5 alumni now working locally in their field;

• Revenue targets were exceeded and innovateBurlington worked with 12 companies and completed 13 projects;

• 16 mentors provided guidance and experience to our grads.

innovateBurlington is a great example of how we integrate opportunities for local youth employment and the needs of the local business community, and provides us with our future community leaders.

Responsible governments have to be fiscally prudent. 2012 offered unique challenges in the constant battle to weigh the inevitable trade-offs between increasing taxes and tailoring services and responsibilities. We have managed this well, despite the challenges.

Council agreed to an increase in the hospital tax levy of 1% in 2012 and the expectation at this stage is that we will do the same for 2013 and 2014. The community has told us loud and clear that the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital redevelopment is a number one priority. The community needs to get behind the foundation as they work to raise their $60 million share for the redevelopment.

For 2011 and 2012, there was a cumulative increase of 3.2% for the Burlington portion of property taxes or 4.2% including the increase in the hospital levy. Our objective in the longer term is to maintain average tax rate increases around inflationary levels, which is very challenging to achieve.

What does all this mean?

MoneySense magazine named Burlington the GTA’s number 1 city and the second best city in Canada in which to live. It was also rated the 8th best place for jobs.

In an independent survey this past Fall conducted by Environics, Burlington residents who were surveyed responded:

• They were very satisfied with the services they receive from the City of Burlington

• 83% of Burlington residents surveyed said they receive excellent value for their tax dollars

• Burlingtonians are very satisfied with municipal government.

• Residents also have a positive outlook on the future as it pertains to both their quality of life and personal financial situation.

• 95% say they have an excellent or good quality of life.

Our 2012 efforts and results will go a long way towards Burlington continuing to be a destination and home for families and businesses. The challenge going forward will be to maintain this positive progress and energy, and build on this foundation and drive.

Mayor Goldring delivers his speeches in a direct deliberate style.

Last month, at a presentation hosted by the Burlington Economic Development Corporation (BEDC), Craig Wright, Chief Economist at TD Bank and Burlington resident, suggested that Canadian growth would be dampened and kept at about the 2% level, interest rates will likely remain low and the regional housing market will cool, with little risk of a major declines. Craig then moved to his view of the local Burlington economy and clearly stated that we have a “vibrant local economy that is well positioned to grow.” As evidence, he cited the diversity of our economic base, noting the healthy mix of professional services and manufacturing in Burlington and the fact that we are a relatively prosperous community; our household incomes are nearly 20% higher than the Ontario average. This will sustain the local housing market and fuel future growth in consumer spending to the advantage of local businesses.

Canadian businesses have improved balance sheets, indicating a future acceleration of their respective investment levels. This means to me that we need to ensure Burlington is well positioned to capture more than “our fair share” of such future investment.

We must position and market ourselves accordingly, with the right infrastructure in place. Burlington must be fiscally responsible and well-run; an engaging place that businesses are attracted to and invest in and where their people want to live because of the amenities and quality of life we offer and enjoy. This is our key challenge for 2013 and beyond.

Looking Ahead: 2013 and Beyond

So what must we get right in 2013?

The Pier construction must continue to be well-managed by our staff. This project has been a visible distraction to all of us. Once completed, the pier will integrate positively into our iconic waterfront and provide an identity for future generations.

Last year several parks were completed in North Burlington and our new state-of-the-art Alton Public Library and Community Centre, built-in conjunction with a new public high school, will be open this fall. Knowing that access to parks and green space are important drivers of citizen satisfaction and quality of life, we are investing in our communities and creating vibrant neighbourhoods.

We are working with our neighbours in Hamilton on mutually important issues through the Greater Bay Area Sub-Committee. This includes the clean-up of Randle Reef and potential economic development opportunities, which will open the door for future, mutually beneficial partnerships.

Our Official Plan Review will continue in 2013. This is an extremely important process because our population is changing and there is very little room left for brand new greenfield development. Within our Alton community, there is only potential for 450 more single family homes. Our present and future state is infill, intensification and redevelopment that provide us the opportunity to create compact, mixed use and walkable neighbourhoods.

We also have a growing number of seniors and single person households. The needs for housing, transit, and services will also change. The Official Plan Review will be a big picture look at how and where we will grow from here, to meet our needs and create the Burlington of the future.

A number of important strategic initiatives took place in 2012 where we will see results this year.

Our Community Energy Plan team will submit their report, allowing us to set and achieve long-term sustainability goals. Together with Halton Region, we are working towards the development of the Beachway Park Master Plan with recommended actions in 2013.

Late last year, the province advised us that they will be addressing transportation challenges in the Halton, Hamilton, Niagara regions by widening existing highways and not with a brand new Niagara GTA highway through North Burlington-for now. The details will be announced in February.

Widened highways will not address the issue long-term. Commute times in the GTA are some of the longest in North America. We need the province to aggressively support “The Big Move” plan of Metrolinx. This requires $50 billion of funding of which only $16 billion of that has been funded. If implemented, the result will be a 32 minute reduction in average commute times in the GTA.

With the fiscal challenges of the provincial government, they have to look at alternative sources of revenue to pay for this which could include road tolls, parking levies, a regional sales tax or increases in the gas tax. The federal government needs to step up as well, as Canada is one of the few countries in the world where the federal government does not contribute to public transit. There is no time to wait on this, as the cost of congestion is significant for both commuters and consumers.

Led by our City Manager, Jeff Fielding, staff has initiated Results Based Accountability, with a goal to have Performance Based Budgeting in place for 2015. We will continue to realign our programs and services to meet the goals and objectives of this Council’s Strategic Plan. This includes continuing with a head count freeze at City Hall. All new positions required are filled by redeployment of existing staff or attrition.

The City’s e-government technology project is underway with the goal to significantly advance our web-based customer service.

One of the key priorities for 2013 will be the Burlington Economic Development Corporation. In November 2012, Burlington City Council endorsed aggressive growth targets and formally requested the BEDC to take a more direct, active and strategic role in the short and long-term development and marketing of Burlington.

While the city’s employment lands are valuable strategic assets, they are in limited supply. We must take a proactive and targeted approach to preserve and optimize the city’s employment land inventory to yield higher tax contributions bringing in proportionally more revenue and making us less reliant on residential property taxes. The longer term goal will see the City essentially double its industrial/commercial revenues over 20 years by focusing on business intensification below the escarpment, thereby driving Burlington’s long-term fiscal capabilities and sustainability.

Looking Ahead: Beyond 2013

Burlington is at an interesting point in its history. We are becoming built out as mentioned earlier, resulting in our tax assessment growing at a slower rate. We are aging at a rate greater than provincial averages with 17% of residents over age 65, and 45% over 45. The major revenue source for the City is from property taxes. Now more than ever, we need to be creative in looking at our financial situation in the long-term and analyzing our balance sheet, which could result in the redeployment or leveraging of our assets. We cannot accept status quo thinking.

As Mayor, I am part of the Large Urban Mayors Caucus of Ontario (LUMCO). One of the areas we are focusing on is research in preparation of asking the provincial government for the opportunity to access alternative sources of revenue. There is real unfairness about a tax system that sees municipalities receiving 11% of tax revenue generated along with maintaining 65% of the capital infrastructure. Mississauga Mayor Hazel

McCallion has said many times that the federal government has all the money, the province has all the power and the municipalities have all the problems.

So what must we get right in the long-term?

We must redefine and market Burlington’s value proposition to target global and national companies in key economic sectors including advanced manufacturing, financial services and information technology.

We must review the City’s planning and development approvals system to be more in tune to the needs of industry and business and create a distinct, sustainable competitive advantage.

An early example of this is the Ikea project, which played a vital role in helping us shape the new direction for the Burlington Economic Development Corporation, by creating the opportunity for big picture thinking about the needs for our future growth and development to retain and attract the kind of businesses we want for Burlington.

I am pleased to announce that at our next Council meeting, we will be approving an Official Plan Amendment and Rezoning Application to allow for the relocation of Ikea to the QEW and Walkers Line. While there are two other processes that we must go through with the Region, Conservation Halton and the Ministry of Transportation, I am confident that we will be successful in keeping Ikea’s Canadian head office here in Burlington. What does this mean for Burlington?

A new head office and store over 440,000 square feet, which is 70% larger than the existing facility;

• about 90 new jobs or nearly a 20% increase to their team;

• $1.7 million in total tax revenue and $10.8 million in total development charges;

• a facility that attracts about 1.5 million visitors to Burlington.

IKEA has become the catalyst for unlocking the development potential of the North Service Road area.

Developing the area of North Service Road between Guelph Line and Appleby Line is the starting point for turning the QEW employment lands into Burlington’s Prosperity Corridor.

Our vision is to launch a cycle of re-investment that will see high-profile sites fill the QEW corridor with new office buildings that will house companies and create high quality jobs that mirror the skills of our residents. This will be an opportunity to leverage our investment in the DeGroote of School Business with the prosperity corridor. This will be a significant development of over 2 million square feet of new industrial/office development projects and will accommodate over 6,000 new high-value jobs.

Another element in the development of our employment lands to create jobs and prosperity for the city is the redevelopment of the King Road Underpass, also known as the ‘Big Push.’ This significant engineering accomplishment marks the kind of strategic and innovative investments that will continue to take us into the 22nd century.

Our goal is to build over 900,000 square feet of new industrial/commercial facilities every year which will generate over $600,000 in new ICI tax revenue; and create 1,526 jobs per year for a total of approximately 29,000 new jobs across the city by 2031. This will increase the opportunity for more residents to not only live in Burlington, but work here as well, improving their quality of life.

Burlington’s era of automatic pilot growth and new construction is over. We are out of land for large new residential subdivisions and our supply of industrial/commercial land is also constrained. So, I repeat the earlier question, “what must we get right in 2013 and beyond?”

When Wayne Gretzky played hockey, he saw and played the game in a very different way. He never worried about where the puck was at any given moment. Everyone else did. He stayed steps head, thinking where the puck is going to be and then acted. We have to anticipate and shape our future and then act, ahead of, smarter, and better than others.

If civic government was merely the fiscal administration and execution of specific services, this would be simple and clear. But I propose that civic leadership is more than that. As stewards for our community, we must harness and galvanize the energies and desires of our people, community groups, and businesses to make Burlington the choice where people want to dream, live, enjoy, work, raise their families, and invest, now and in the future.

To do this, we have to dare to create a clear, unified vision, designed and executed by all stakeholders, and then drive to put and maintain Burlington on the map of top-tier communities. We have to envision and create our future on our own terms.

Two months ago, I arranged for an Inspire Burlington – Defining Our Dream workshop for 35 community leaders including representatives from Council, business, media, education, community groups, faith, sports, arts and culture, healthcare, youth and environmental advocacy groups, to define the dream for Burlington.

The objective of the two-day workshop was to define an exciting future or dream that we can all aspire to, work towards, and benefit from. The two days were both invigorating and exhausting. The depth of people’s passion for Burlington was phenomenal and authentic. There were three major themes that came out of the workshop.

Burlington is a compassionate, connected community. This is evidenced by the work of our social agencies, faith communities and service clubs that reach out to those in need including the 17,000 people in Burlington living below the poverty line.

There is a tremendous connection with our natural environment. In fact, the terms “Iconic Natural Identity”, “Jewel on the Lake” and “Sense of Place” were used. While the Niagara Escarpment is not unique to Burlington, it is integral to our City.

The other theme encompasses “Super Charging Ideas” which recognizes that with our limited growth potential and the way the world is changing, we need to be innovative and creative using “22nd century thinking” to maintain and enhance the vibrant nature of Burlington, where we are the home of “great opportunities” with “local riches and “global impact” being created.

Burlington offers so much: wonderful neighbourhoods, a great waterfront, our rural north, great parks and open space, recreational and cultural opportunities, great businesses and educational institutions. If you can’t find what you need in Burlington, you don’t have to go very far to find what you are looking for.

Why do people choose to live in Burlington or have their business in Burlington? It is quality of life. I mentioned earlier that 95% of the people surveyed by Environics rank their quality of life very high. Our challenge will be to maintain what we have.

This, for me, was an amazing process – both inspirational and educational. For us as a collective, it solidified the direction of our strategic plan and reinforced the work we have begun at the City. I believe, ultimately, that the information gleaned during this process can become a blueprint for all of our stakeholders and partners to use in planning for their future. It can give us an intelligent, pragmatic, and sustainable competitive advantage and serve as our legacy to future generations. As a community, we must shape and drive our future together.

So what do I want you to take away from today?

Opening new parks, cutting ribbons – all part of the job a Mayor does.

Be positive. Burlington is in good shape. Council is committed to keep Burlington as a thriving, prosperous, inclusive community through strong fiscal management, innovation and partnerships.

Be open to change. We have a meaningful Strategic Plan in place with a focused Council and staff that understands Burlington’s priorities. We will continue to look at how we engage the community as we work through the change that is taking place. The City of Burlington is focused on improving customer service, improving productivity through technology, and decision-making through teamwork and performance based measurement.

We will overcome challenges and continue to position ourselves as the community of choice for residents and business because of our strengths, amenities, and quality of life. We will not take anything for granted.

What makes me optimistic for our future? Burlington is a not just a city. We are a community; a community of partnerships, and generosity. A community of people who strengthen this city giving it its character and charm, who balance pride with humility, with neighbours working together and otherwise people from different walks of life, who selflessly and quietly help others. I am continually inspired by the efforts of the many people who do caring things for others in our community.

It’s the single volunteer who cooks a turkey for Christmas dinner at Carpenter Hospice, to those who contribute precious dollars and talent to community groups, all the way up to the rather astounding force of the Burlington Eagles Hockey Club who along with other organizations, collected more than 200,000 pounds of food in their Fall Food Drive for local food banks.

We have a past and present that we can be rightfully proud of. But what excites me, what inspires me, is the enduring spirit of our community and people.

So let’s dream and join together, for Burlington and each other. We are in this together. And together we will continue to build a wonderful city.

Thank You.

Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

1 comment to Mayor tells a sold out crowd that the city is doing just fine – said the same thing last year.

  • Lawrence Rossi

    Thanks for the column Pepper. Some interesting points were made

    “The Pier construction must continue to be well-managed by our staff” – when did is become well managed?

    The biggest laugh? “I can honestly say this Council is focused on and committed to the tasks at hand and the people of Burlington. Burlington is a fine example of the effectiveness of municipal government.”

    Effective government – wow they really are out of touch, unless effective government means wasting money, building things no one wants, and ignoring the cries of the people.