Mayor wants help “defining the dream”. Who was chosen to define the dream? Who is paying for the dream leader? We don’t know yet.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  November 7, 2012   The media release said: Mayor Goldring is pleased to announce that he will be hosting Inspire Burlington Leadership Workshop – Defining Our Dream on November 22, 23 and 24th.

“After speaking with and listening to thousands of residents over the last two years I believe we have a need and an opportunity to better define what we want Burlington to be; how we want others to see us; and how we want to see ourselves”, said Mayor Goldring. “Basically, what is our dream?”, he asked.

Mayor Goldring and his Council plus many staff members spent eleven half days thinking through a Strategic Plan that didn’t quite come up with a defining goal.  Goldring on the left with the top Human Resources guru at city hall, Roy Male and two of the KPMG staffers who facilitated the event.

The Mayor also said: “ We all know that Burlington is a great place to live, work and play. We have had 25 years of growth and prosperity which has led Burlington to be recognized as one of the very best places to live in Canada. In order to sustain our prosperity and quality of life and to meet the needs of our ever changing community we also recognize that we must challenge the status quo and continually challenge ourselves.”

“We have an excellent foundation to build our dream on. We have an engaged community, a strong local government, a strategic plan, a great location and environment with the lake and escarpment, and a diverse local business community. Defining our dream will bring this all together.”

The Mayor has engaged Dr. Lance Secretan to facilitate the development of a defining dream for Burlington. “It is my hope” said the Mayor, “that this dream will provide the community with an ambition and determination that brings us together and helps us build a future for which our children will be proud.”

Mayor Goldring: Taking part in a Community Engagement Charter meeting. He needed that coffee at this one.

Mayor Goldring is a thoughtful, considerate, caring person. Are “political smarts” really part of his make up?

“This Leadership Workshop is a starting point. I would like to sincerely thank the participants that have agreed to commit selflessly their time and effort to this project. I am excited to be developing this defining dream with community leaders and am equally excited to have the opportunity to share the dream with the community afterwards.”

The media release leaves a lot of unanswered questions:

Who chose the people who are going to participate in this workshop?  Did the Mayor make the decisions?  How balanced is this group of people?  Marketing people do this sort of thing all the time; they choose a group of people they know will give them the answers they want and then claim they have “research” that tells them everyone likes their product.

The city deserves more in the way of transparency on this one.

The city has a Strategic Plan.  It used eleven half days of meetings with an excellent facilitator but at that time was unable to come up with a clear goal – what they all referred to as that “BHAG – Big Hairy Audacious Goal”.  Those Strategic Planning meetings included all the council members and most of the leading thinkers and operators on staff.  It was during the creation of the Strategic Plan that the Mayor and his Council realized how out of step the city manager at the time was with the thinking being done by Council.  That city manager was gone less than six months later.

Creating a vision is a delicate business.  Keeping a balance between the various interests in a community is what politics is all about.  No harm in going out to the community – just let the community know who it is doing the “dreaming”.  One can be certain that this isn’t a meeting of a group of developers – we don’t have that kind of Mayor.  But what kind of a Mayor do we have?  He doesn’t seem prepared to tell the people he will ask to put him back in office in less than 20 months who he has asked to dream with him.

Not very transparent.

How many people are participating?

Is there an agenda; a format the participants will follow?

Why hold the event now?

Is the pier part of the dream or is it an expenditure that will have to be explained during the next municipal election?

Summer reading – winter dream?

We know why the Mayor chose Lance Secretan to facilitate this dream session.  While on vacation last year the Mayor took along a copy of Secretan’s book, The Spark, the Flame, and the Torch and was “inspired”; a word the Mayor is partial to – using it for the excellent series of speakers  he has sponsored since becoming  Mayor.  His next Inspire speaker is Senator Art Eggleton, who will speak on The Great Divergence: Income Inequality in Canada”

Senator Eggleton has served the people of Canada and the city of Toronto in public office for over 37 years, including 11 years as Mayor of Toronto and 11 years in the House of Commons as the member for York Centre.

In 2005,  Eggleton was appointed to the Senate of Canada. He currently serves as Deputy Chair of the Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology and is a member of the Standing Committee on Transport and Communication.

He is Co-Chair of the Liberal Social and Economic Policy Caucus and Co-Chair of the All-Party Anti-Poverty Caucus.

In his blog the Mayor gave us a look at some of his thinking.  On November 6th he said: ” Thirty years ago Hamilton provided many of the jobs for Burlington residents. The steel plants were booming. The auto sector in South Western Ontario provided many well paid secure jobs which supported our community. Manufacturing was king as Ontario led the Canadian economic boom.

During the late 70’s and 80’s many Canadians moved from Quebec to the Toronto area bringing jobs, and prosperity came with them. Our economy supported the tremendous quality of life that developed and has been sustained for the last 30 years.

Our situation has changed. After steady growth, Burlington is now slowest growing community in the GTA. We are only expected to grow by another 19,000 residents in the next 20 years; this pales in comparison to the growth we have experienced in the past.

The Escarpment is certainly part of the dream. Is Burlington going to be able to keep the dream? Can we afford to keep this dream?

The community made a decision that it was important to protect the rural and environmentally sensitive lands in Burlington. This rural area represents about 50% of Burlington. This decision has an impact on other areas of the city.

Is this a big part of the dream the Mayor is looking for? How big a part of the city is the waterfront? Is it more than just something to look at?

We are competing to attract businesses and residents not only with other Ontario municipalities, but also other cities in Canada and even other international cities. What makes us unique and distinguishes us from others that will make Burlington the location of choice?

These factors are leading to community discussion about what we don’t want. I want to generate a discussion about what we do want.

After speaking with and listening to thousands of residents over the last two years I believe we have a need and an opportunity to better define what we want Burlington to be; how we want others to see us; and how we want to see ourselves.  What is our dream?

The dream will start an important conversation with the entire community that will result in a prosperous future for our City. I believe that by creating a defining dream we will have a rallying point, a touchstone, which will bring us together and allow us to make the decisions we have to make with purpose.

After the workshop I will be sharing the results with the community. We will be able to have a conversation that is inspiring and about what we want to be as a collective community.”

We can’t wait – let’s hope that the results aren’t lumps of coal in our Christmas stockings.

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