Me, the Mayor and the media; a relationship that is stronger because of the almost daily stress.

By Pepper Parr, Publisher, Our Burlington.

BURLINGTON, ON.  February 21, 2013  We were accepted as full members of the Ontario Press Council last fall.

The Press Council serves at the body that listens to the public when they feel media have been unfair.  Anyone can take a complaint or a concern to the Press Council.  The address is set out below.

Ontario Press Council, 890 Yonge St., Suite 200, Toronto M4W 3P4.  Telephone: (416) 340-1981

There is no cost to anyone going to the Press Council.

As member of the organization we are required to abide by their decisions and publish any decision they make.  Because we are an electronic publication any Ontario Press Council decision related to anything we have published remains on our web site for anyone to see.  The decisions of the press council are also on the Press Council web site.

Many people don’t understand the role of media in a society.  Communities with small local newspapers are often poorly served by those publications.  Burlington’s “information deficit” was brought to light in 2010 when the Shape Burlington report was published.

That document, written by former Mayor Walter Mulkewich and the late John Boich,  set out quite clearly what the problem was and where the responsibility for the information deficit lay.

One of the Shape recommendations was to create a Community Engagement Charter and the city is in the last phase of finalizing that document and deciding what it wants to do with the numerous recommendations that have been set out in draft versions of the Engagement Charter.

Another recommendation was for the city to fund some form of media that would help reduce the “information deficit”.  The city should not be in the business of funding media, look at City Talk, the city’s quarterly magazine that is filled with puff pieces written by Council members or their staff.  Terrible waste of money.

John Boich convinced me to use my 30 years of publishing experience to produce some form of electronic media; that conversation resulted in Our Burlington that came out October 2010.

The relationship between the different organizations in the city and the media is usually a strained one.  People and organizations want nice things said about them.  Our job is to say nice things if there are nice things to say but we are also there to report and explain.  We have chosen a cheeky and irreverent style.  We are constantly amazed at how bland most of the statements that come out of city hall, the Region or the offices of the MP and the MPP are; self serving puff pieces for the most part.

Here is what the Mayor had to say about us last summer.

The two or three media people who cover city hall are there to observe and report.   Running a city is a complex business and its matters are complex.  Saying the tax rate is going to be increased is a statement of fact – but those facts have to be put in context.   One percent of the tax increase last year was to pay for the city’s portion of the hospital re-build.

Saying the pier is now on schedule does not mean we don’t also say that the thing is over the initial amount it was expected to cost by more than 200% – and then asking why this happened.  Getting a straight answer is easier said than done.

Asking why city council always goes into closed session when the city solicitor speaks about the law suits the city is involved in over the pier and continually asking how much has been spent on legal fees is part of what media does.

We also reported on the 58 Burlingtonians who were awarded Jubilee medals.

We see more of the council members and staff than most people and we arrive at conclusions.  There are some very good people doing fine jobs at city hall; there are others just putting in the time until the can leave on a pension.

There are some that are always helpful and others that snow you with a dozen documents or refer you to someone else when their job is to provide information and inform.

Our Burlington has had some major differences with some people; some of those differences get resolved, on others we just disagree.

City hall has 1000 people on the payroll and is run by a top tier team of three people – with five layers of management between the city manager and the entry level clerk.

There are more really smart, energetic enthusiastic people at city hall than there are slugs.  And more often than taxpayers realize, they give very good value.

Our relationships with the members of council are all different because they are different people with agendas of their own.   Their public image is basically a brand they use to get themselves  re-elected.  Re-election for a council member is like a promotion to other people; they work hard to get them.

The Mayor is, we believe, in place to show leadership.  While the Mayor has just one vote he  does have the opportunity to lead and to set the tone.  For those who don’t think the style of leadership and the tone of the city council is important,  look back to how quickly this city decided it didn’t want Cam Jackson as Mayor, even though he had served the city as its MPP for many years.  Adapting a Queen’s Park skill set to city hall was something Jackson was not able to do.  Voters saw that inability and chose someone else to be Mayor.

While we have been critical of Rick Goldring in the past, and will be critical of him again in the future because that is part of what media do – we will never forget the evening he basically said goodbye to John Boich a week before he passed away.  He treated John Boich with great dignity, deference and sympathy and in doing so reflected what this city is about.

We really liked the comments the Mayor made about Our Burlington a couple of months ago – note sure Goldring would say them today but they reflect the kind of man he is.


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3 comments to Me, the Mayor and the media; a relationship that is stronger because of the almost daily stress.

  • Gene

    Great article!!!

    Agree with your comments on leadership. Leaders do not tell us what we want to hear but take us where we want to go.

    I’ll wait for results from the Charter of Engagement process but we are 2 years into this and no where near the grassroots engagement that Mississauaga has. See their website at You can’t legislate it. It has to come from active involved local groups in the community, groups such as Burlington Green and ratepayer groups.

    keep posting what you believe is right. You’ve done a remarkable job!!

  • parrking

    We received the following from
    Talk about puff pieces – look in the mirror Pepper. Where did the ego come from?

    We responded with:
    I didn’t think I was working from my ego when I put the piece up. The mayor did make the comments, which were gracious and sincere – he’s that kind of person.
    I was looking for a way to announce that we were member of the Press Council – the first electronic publication to be accepted and the vote was unanimous. Those things matter.
    When I read your comment I asked my wife if she thought the piece was my ego getting away on me. Her response was that there was a bit of ego in it.
    You’ve served me well – thank you for the comment, which will of course be published.
    And we sent the email off to Jamie. Here is what we got back: The email account that you tried to reach does not exist.
    Turns out Jamie is a fraud who doesn’t have the courage of his convictions.

  • James Smith

    Gee, makes me wish I had a big enough complaint – just to test the system.
    ( I also wish there was an IRONY font I could use.)