No coal for these Christmas stockings – the Significant Seven are not forgotten.

 December 19, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  We wish each and every one of the significant seven that set policy at city hall the Merriest of Christmases.  .  We have watched you; perhaps more than anyone else in the city, as you have done the job you were each elected to do.  On this your last Christmas this term we want to put our wish for you in that Christmas stocking you have hung.  No pieces of coal from us in your Christmas stockings. 

We have watched you for every meeting you have held – well not for those that you chose to go into a CLOSED session for – there were far too many of those by the way.

Has anyone ever done a count as to how many times you have gone into a CLOSED session on the city’s legal travails with the pier?   When you do get someone to count you will shudder.  It didn’t have to be that way.

Let us run through the seven and tell you what we wish for them.  It would not be fair to start with Ward 1 – everyone has been dumping on Councillor Craven recently, so let’s start with the Dean of Council – John Taylor.

John Taylor, Ward 3: Thoughtful, emotional always come out for the little guy.

We would wish John two things – more time at home with his wife and some time to think before he lets his emotions get to his tongue before his brain does.  John knows as much as anyone as to how the city works.  He struggles a bit to pull some of that information off the shelves in his head and pass the information along. 

Would that there were a Senate for municipal politicians – a place people like John could be sent to and where we could call upon them for sober second thought and some refection as to what municipal government is all about.

Jack Dennison, Ward 4  – Still athletic, still breaking he boundaries

For Councillor Jack Dennison in Ward 4 we would wish a membership in the Roseland Community Organization – they chose not to accept his membership cheque and so he is for the most part on the outs with some of the people who make things happen in this city.

We would wish as well,  an Ontario Municipal Board decision that is deserved, one that reflects the best for the community he was elected to represent.

Blair Lancaster, Ward 5:  Picture perfect

For Blair Lancaster, the ward six Councillor,  we wish a clear understanding as to just what a conflict of interest is and to understand as well the difference between the people she was elected to represent and those that have strong vested interests and want to exploit their relationship with her.

As well, we wish her the wisdom to reflect and fully understand the agendas set out for the Standing Committees she now chairs.  There are many watching her performance very closely; this is her chance to show those that wonder if she has what it takes.  And perhaps a can of tiara polish – might be needed to get her over the finish line come October.

Finally, an appreciation for those voters north of the 407.  They basically represent the number of votes Lancaster won by last time out.

Paul Sharman, Ward 5:  Focused, data driven.

For Paul Sharman – the Ward 5 council member who came on so strong during his first year and now seems to have gotten his wheels  spinning in a thing called the data rut.  The art of politics – and it is an art Councillor, not a science, is about people not strategies we wish a biography of Fiorello LaGuardia, the famous Mayor of New York city who loved every constituent he had and often took city buses just to be with them. Irascible, energetic, and charismatic, he craved publicity and is acclaimed as one of the three or four greatest mayors in American history.

We would add to the list of gifts for you, a Friends of Freeman Station – the one you could wear when you apologize for doubting their ability to pull of the magnificent job they have done.  Add to that T-shirt the grace to do the smart thing when they delegate next and thank them and ask how you can help.

But that touch of arrogance, just a bit, wouldn’t let you do that. So add a velvet bag you can put some of that arrogance into and then toss it out.

We would add for you a PRESTO pass that you can wave at campaign meetings to show that you are ready to take the bus.

Rick Craven, Ward 1: Plains Road, Plains Road and Plains Road.

Our wish for Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven is for someone to give the man a good tickle along with a train set he can play with.  Craven has a bad case of serious, serious, serious.  The boy in him needs to be allowed to come out.  We don`t think Councillor Craven has bad manners but we do think he needs to use the ones he was given.  Politics is not a game for the thin-skinned.

A Dear Abbey book on manners will do the trick here.

So for Councillor Craven – the ability to laugh, have fun, engage people, like the people he   represents (not always easy)  Set aside your well-marked copy of the Procedural bylaw and accept the gift of Dale Carnegie’s How to win friends and influence people.   Politics is about people – ya gotta like them and you have to like yourself before you can like others.  Time for some deep reflection – there is a hill on the horizon Craven may not manage to get over.

Then there is His Worship.  He wants to do a good job, and desperately wants to do the right thing – and to be liked at the same time.  Leadership is being able to figure out what the right thing is for the community you lead.  That chain of office can be very heavy at times.  Each time you put on that chain of office – you need to also take on the strength of character voters thought they saw in you when they marked an X beside your name.

Mayor Rick Goldring: Compassionate, still looking for the right direction for him.

Many describe you as a weak Mayor.  Your reasons for running in 2010 were more emotional, with that worked out of your system you can now show the city who you really are with a thoroughly thought out plan.  Losing your senior advisor hasn’t helped.  There is a very good chance you will be acclaimed – which would not be good for Burlington nor for you.  You need to be challenged and further tested and given the opportunity to come through a hard fight and be the Mayor you could be – but that is going to call for you to be stronger, more forthright and more deliberate.  Were a strong well focused candidate to come forward – you can be beaten.

So for you Your Worship a good Churchill biography to gain some sense of how great leaders handle crisis and lead their people – the one done by Roy Jenkins is a perfect place to start.   We can promise that we will not have put another book by Lance Secretan in your stocking.

We wish you time to spend with the people in this city who raised you, perhaps a long talk with a high school teacher.  We wish you time to reach out and find people who can help you shape a second term.  Do something that is well outside your comfort zone –  be bold.

We wish as well, the smarts to better understand how Meed Ward has defined herself and the introspection to determine how you want to define yourself in the months ahead.

Finally, we wish a candidate that will test your mettle and force you to defend all the decisions you made during your first term.  You will be a better Mayor for it – and Burlington will be a better city if you win.

And finally Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward we wish a dictionary with fewer words.  Of the three new Councillors she has grown the most and extended her reach far beyond the boundaries of her ward.  She is the go to person for many people in every ward – but she talks too much.

Marianne Meed Ward, Ward 2:  She has it figured out – now can she pull it off.

Meed Ward no longer has to says she might run for the office of Mayor – other people, many of them, say it for her.  She has changed the way all council members communicate with their constituents.  Her ward “council” is a close to perfect example of how a Councillor should interact with constituents.

Meed Ward may well run for the office of Mayor at some point in the future – but in the world of politics the future is a long, long way off.

She may well be acclaimed in 2014 – the chances of anyone beating her are slim to none.  There is no one on the horizon that comes even close to threatening her.

In the event that she is acclaimed that will keep her out of the 2014 municipal election race – which will drive her bananas.  She loves the game; she loves the job she has and she loves working for people.

While Meed Ward has certainly grown there are some lessons to be learned.  We wish several large colourful pictures for Meed Ward – each picture will save her 1000 words.

We wish her the opportunity to attract advisors who can guide her as she grows.  We wish her the time to take a summer course on economics and finance and how assets can be used as leverage.

There was a time when she had few supporters within staff – that is changing.  She has work to do at the senior levels – she is never going to get to the point where she will be exchanging Christmas cards with the city’s planner.

Burlington’s Significant Seven.

The Season is about to settle upon us.  Home, family, friends and time to relax and reflect are gift we wish for each and every one of you.

Return to city hall in January and meet with the Clerk to file your nomination papers.

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7 comments to No coal for these Christmas stockings – the Significant Seven are not forgotten.

  • Susan Lewis

    Very well written article and accurate. I enjoyed reading it.

    In my opinion, one problem that would be easy to solve is with the Mayor. I really like him but when he lost his Chief of Staff in Oct. 2012, he lost me. There is a lot of hope for him and he could go far in politics, if he’d just be true to himself like he was in the beginning. Where is Frank McKeown when you need him?

  • Stephanie Cooper-Smyth

    “…as you have done the job you were each elected to do.”

    Lancaster has not. Period. Full stop.

    I hear that the taxpayers of Ward Six are getting mobilized to put a full stop to her future on Council, period!

  • George Simmons

    I have a more accurate condensed assessment of the seven subjects of interest.

    TERM LIMITS. It is virtually impossible to have an effective council member who has been sheltered from the rest of the world such as John Taylor, trying to run the business of the city which is so dependent on economic and real estate development. You need somebody who actually has some experience in dealing with fiscal related issues in a responsible and productive manner.

    It is almost maddening to witness the selfish attempts at preserving the status quo of city governance in this city; Taylor should step aside; enough fire side chats with the age friendly councillor.

    We need the Meed Wards, but, combined also combined with strong advisors, or, nothing will happen either; another but younger version of the Taylor syndrome. She’s got it, but, needs a chief of staff or something, then she will be amazing.

    Goldring has about 6 months to step up and show some assertive management skills, or, better just go back to selling insurance. I’m surprised he can get through the day without having to rely on some sort of decision by committee; I wonder if he chooses what he wears everyday, or, he has to consult with his wife first.

    Craven needs a vacation for working so much, to get some of that grump off, and maybe even have a glass of wine once in a while; and stay away from Meed Ward if she continues to be nasty with you. Craven deserves more respect; good guy all around; great civil servant; understands the higher duty to servicing the community.

    Don’t squeeze the Sharman; good representative for selling non-stick cookware; very little knowledge about most matters; does not belong in civil service.

    Lancaster; cookies and tea will be served; there will be songs and a raffle for a quilt also. What dumping of illegal fill? Where? Not civil service material.

    Dennison; cool, calm, professional, efficient, knowledgeable, effective both in the private sector business world, as well as a strong civil servant; real pro.

    I was thinking about running for one of the 7 positions, but, the pay is too low.

    • Tom Muir

      George Simmons, you sound like someone in the peanut gallery taking cheap shots at the defenceless players below.

      I particularly object to your shots at John Taylor. I have worked with John on financial items since the early 90’s, and when you say he doesn’t know anything you don’t know what you are talking about.

      I have noticed that over the years he has become a man of fewer words, which to me is a sign of experience and wisdom, something you and your diatribe, run-on style could learn from.

      In part, my opinion on the why of John’s move towards more silence, is because everything really important, and worth saying, about municipal finance he has already said a hundred times, and maybe he just gets tired of it when apparently nobody is listening. They want to hear what they want to hear, and when they don’t, they say Taylor is wrong, or not listening, or not explaining himself enough.

      Your last sentence really identifies you as an elitist wage-snob, and it sounds like a poorly chosen and sweeping condemnation of every councillor in the region.

      My own view from the tone of this is that you couldn’t cut anyways – you obviously know nothing about how municipal finance operates, and the special limits and demands that are so restrictive and limiting in terms of what they can do fiscally, and financially.

      So I suggest you either put up or shut up. This polemic here is just blathering.

      • George Simmons

        Taylor knows nothing because all he has ever seen is the insides of a tiny village called Burlington. Taylor has never dealt with development on the levels which are required now. He has had his comfortable enjoyment and it is time to go; he cannot keep up to the demands of the financial challenges of this municipal government. I get tired of on the job training for people who are elected to govern with a reasonable level of competency. If Taylor had any honour whatsoever, he would agree to step aside and make space for someone who has the expertise and produce real results, not some fire side mumblings of the current state of affairs.

        If a guy like Fielding can pull in $250K a year, then so should a councillor. Money buys quality and results. If you offered councillors $250K a year, Taylor would never have been a councillor, and we would have a stronger and more vibrant city, as well as a more robust financial status.

        I know how municipal finance can work, and it doesn’t involve handing over the management roles to lawyers. First step, get rid of Taylor. His ‘age friendly’ wisdom has become obsolete in today’s world.

        • Tom Muir

          Your argument has still not risen above the level of an ad hominen attack on John Taylor.

          You need to provide some specific details to support the critical points you make, that still seem to me to reflect your minimal understanding of municipal finance, and development, and the history of these things in Burlington.

          Fill in the blanks of each of the shots you take at John. What exactly would you do, or would have done? And please show some knowledge of the actual facts, and how you would make it better, given the realities of municipal finance.

  • mary bozelli

    I think a lot of people are wishing for change!