Not the kind of address that inspires, moves people or gets a Mayor re-elected. Candidates may want to look closer at their options.

By Pepper Parr


January 23, 2014

How did he do this time?

It really wasn’t all that different than the last two State of the City addresses the Mayor has delivered.  I think he thanked everyone who pays taxes.

He introduced everyone that was elected and is paid by the taxpayers then chose to pass up on a chance to ask Burlington MPP Jane McKenna if she would talk to the Ministry of the Environment about the water table testing needed due to the tens of thousands of tonnes of landfill from God knows where that was dumped on the land without site plan approval.

At the same time he could have asked for some help from the Ministry of Transport on the road work that has to be done to keep IKEA in town.

15 hectares (37.2 acres) of land in North Aldershot that was donated by Mr. John Holland and will become part of the Cootes to Escarpment park system.

It was more polished speech this year, someone spent some time on giving the document more than a once over, but it didn’t move people.  People basically sat on their hands.  When John Holland got thanked for the 37 acres of land he donated to the city he got a great round of applause.

The address ran 13 pages long, hardly a laugh in it – it was basically an update of where we are which I guess is what a State of the city is supposed to be – but there are some concerns – real concerns that weren’t even touched on. 

The city recently re-built a stretch of Goodram from Spruce south to Lakeshore – at a cost of $2.9 million.  There are 54 homes in that stretch of the city.

At some point every street in the city is going to have to be re-built – that’s just the nature of infrastructure.  The cost of re-building just a portion of Goodram is not sustainable.  We need to find a different more sustainable way to pay for the work that has to be done.

Mention was made about the Economic Development Corporation.  The audience for this address by the Mayor was brought in by the Chamber of Commerce – these are the business leaders of the city and they are heavily represented on the Economic Development Corporation – which is in very serious trouble.

We keep sugar-coating the problems with the BEDC.  It was evident two years ago that the Executive Director had to go – but heels were dragged, excuses given (one was that the city couldn’t afford to buy the guy out)– but when they did eventually part ways the Chair of the BEDC made some intemperate remarks that cost the city a couple of thousand extra in the severance package.

We are told that a new “business model” will be revealed at the BEDC’s AGM in May.  The hope at BEDC right now is that they get the $275,000 they’ve asked for to do yet another study.  Meanwhile the city’s Industrial Commercial Institutional tax revenue is less in 2013 than it was for 2012 and is projected to be less again in 2014

Something is brewing between the city and the University campus on the South Service Road. Mayor wasn’t ready to let that cat out of the bag this morning.

There is some good news – has to do with some project development with the McMaster Burlington DeGroote campus on the South Service Road.  The Mayor kept that card close to his chest – perhaps it will be an election campaign announcement although any credit will be due to the sterling work being done by the city manager.

Burlington’s relationship with the university has been mixed a best.  The city got stiffed when McMaster pulled their plans for a campus on what is now the Elizabeth Street parking lot.

Mayor Goldring spoke of all the new jobs – but made no mention of those we lost and we lost some good ones.  DependableIT is moving to Hamilton – they couldn’t find the space they needed in the city and apparently no one at BEDC was talking to them.

Dependable IT is –just what they say they are – working in Information Technology support.  Their first two clients were Rogers and Cogeco.  Dependable doesn’t flip hamburgers; they pay good wages and those dollars are on their way to Hamilton..

Property values are increasing.  The Mayor said the average price of a home at $500,000 while the Finance Department has it at the $450,000 plus –and he said prices increased 7% over 2012.  The people in the Beachway would certainly like to see some of that value accrue to their homes.

We managed to keep IKEA in town – not much mention of just what that is going to cost the city.  Rebuilding the Walkers Line/North Service road interchange is going to cost a big bundle and the province didn’t get the least bit generous with funds.

The Infrastructure and Development people have had to make the best of a bad situation – anyone who drives the North Service Road west of Walkers Line will scratch their heads when they think about how many cars are going to drive along that road – it’s just two lanes wide now.

When it was all over and the tables were being cleaned up I chatted with a few people to get some feedback.  No one was inspired – Ho hum summed up what I heard.  As  drove back to my office I thought about what moved me – and realized it was the reference made to John Holland and his donation of 37 acres of property in remembrance of his wife Eileen.

The applause was sustained, it was genuine, it was real; far more than just polite.  We had just heard a Burlington story.  As I thought about that bright spark – it was the only one, I realized that Mayor Goldring isn’t comfortable getting beyond the numbers.  XXX number of jobs; XXX square feet of new commercial development; XXX new jobs.

These were kisses without hugs.  That’s not what makes a city, that’s what makes a living but surely living is beyond numbers?  There was no emotion – it was pretty bland.

While the program said there would be some Q&A – that seemed to get dropped.

Disappointing?  Kind of – but more worrying is that we are in an election year and we have to decide if we want to keep the leadership we have.  The Mayor has filed his nomination papers and so far he is the only person seeking the office of Mayor.

Now if I were a betting man I would find myself wondering how many other people came away feeling the way I did and was there anyone who wondered to themselves – I can do better than that.

It is pretty common knowledge that Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward wants at shot at the office – did she hear enough to convince her to take a run at the brass ring in 2014 because the competition in 2018 will be pretty stiff?

Is the dark horse ward 4 candidate wondering if he shouldn’t just go for the Mayor’s job now?

 Is Paul Sharman, who filed nomination papers as a Mayoralty candidate in 2010, and then pulled them to instead run for the ward 5 council seat Goldring was going to vacate?  Does Sharman think he can do a better job?

It wasn’t a pathetic speech – but it just wasn’t good enough.  After three years in office the people at the Burlington Convention Centre deserved better – and needed better.

“Council unanimously approved the Revised Core Commitment for downtown”, said the Mayor. “With over 1800 touch points from our public consultation process, came the vision “Creating an active waterfront downtown destination that showcases the cultural heart of Burlington.” The City will play a leadership role in setting policy and committing resources to implement the strategic actions required to create a more vibrant and prosperous downtown. I have often stated that I believe that our downtown is the heart and soul of our community.”

We are in trouble in the downtown core is the heart and soul of the community.

For reasons that I can’t explain Rick Goldring isn’t comfortable with himself.  He won’t tell the incredibly human stories that are in him.  I would have loved to hear him tell about the picture exhibit Don Smith put up at the Performing Arts Centre just before the publication of the book he sponsored that told a good part of the Burlington story.  Goldring found himself tearing up at that event.

I wanted my Mayor to “romance the stone” to make me feel proud of why I am here and move me  to want to get involved and make this place even better than it is.

I don’t know why I didn’t hear that – I just heard a lot of platitudes.

Background links:

Full text of Mayors 2013 State of the City address

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