Transit riders say what they think about the bus service: it isn't all bad but they make it clear it has to get better.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

April 1, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

It was the third in a series of transit meetings – this time it was the riders who were going to do the talking – and talk they did.  They packed the Centennial room at the library and told each other what worked and what didn’t work for them.

Transit - MMW + Sharman + Sydney

Six breakout groups took part in animated discussions on what works and what doesn’t work.

What was not surprising was the number of positive things the public had to say about the men and women who drive the buses – and the number of drivers who give students a break when the coins in their pockets don’t equal; the demand of the fare box.

However – it wasn’t all good news.

Transit wkshp = Edwardth = Mayor with cell

Joey Edwardth, on the left isn’t sure the Mayor has it figured out. A newly converted transit advocate Mayor Goldring may have an issue he can run with.

Routes don’t work the way they need to work and the service is spotty much of the time.

When Bfast (Burlington friends for accessible transit) put out a challenge to the members of city council to use the bus one day a week for a month – Mayor Goldring took up the challenge and made a media event out of it. He has continued to use the bus since that kick off date for him

Councillor Marianne Meed Ward used the bus to get to a Regional Council meeting – she won’t be doing that again – close to three hours and $12+ in costs for what she says can be done in a fifteen minute car ride.

So far none of the other Councillors have taken the challenge – don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

James Smith, a consistent transit advocate said he wasn’t able to take transit to get to the meeting: “the bus schedule wouldn’t allow me to do the errands I needed to do and get to the meeting on time”.

Transit - seniors with Gould

The public meeting for transit users broke out into different groups – these are the seniors talking about what the transit system does for them.

Smith was originally concerned that the politicians would take over the meeting – that didn’t prove to be the case.

Councillors Sharman, Craven, Meed Ward and the Mayor were on hand. The Mayor has clearly gotten the message – he has a new understanding of just what the transit problems are.

Meed Ward isn’t that much of a transit user – but then she lives and works in the downtown core and can walk to almost everything she is involved in.

Councillor Sharman didn’t look like he was enjoying himself and Councillor Craven just worked the crowd.

There was no one from Burlington Transit at the event. “They were invited”: said James Smith.

Transit MMW talking to group

Councillor Marianne Meed Ward explains a point to one of the breakout groups.

The much touted Presto pass can’t apparently be easily loaded – students found this a problem. The city had to spend a considerable amount of money to get the Presto pass service operational – it wasn’t an option and it wasn’t cheap.

The Burlington Transit system has 51 buses covering 31 routes. Coming up with a schedule that meets the needs of the ridership has been a challenge and synchronizing the bus schedule with the GO schedule has been close to impossible. GO trains come and go more frequently than the buses.

Transit - shatrp lady grey hair + rings

A transit rider making a point.

One of the Bfast organizers pointed out that there is apparently no one at the transit office with a long, deep background in transit – and it shows.

Signage was also described as a problem;  especially when moving from the bus service to the GO service.

The biggest problem transit has is a lack of resources. The provincial gas tax rebate is devoted to transit in most municipalities – no so in Burlington. This city has a very significant infrastructure deficit and council has decided to repair the roads rather than improve the bus service.

And some of the roads are in close to desperate need of repair. The city’s namesake street – Burlington – is a mess. There are more people living on that street who drive cars and can complain than there are bus riders. And this city council knows how to listen to as few as a dozen complaints to make a change in a policy. They are certainly responsive – they need to work on being more responsible.

There is an announcement coming in May apparently on more changes to the schedule and in the not too distant future Burlington Transit will begin installing some technology that will provide them with real time information on how many people get on a bus and where they get off. It will cost millions – transit believes that with this data they can develop a schedule that will meet the needs of the bus riders.

Transit - group in breakouit

Everyone got an opportunity to tell their transit story – they weren’t all bad.

Doug Brown, a retired engineer has most of the information the city needs in filing cabinets in his basement. A tireless transit advocate, Brown surprisingly is not used or appreciated by many members of council or the people who run the transit system.

Brown does have a style that is unique to him – but he knows what he is talking about. He is a resource that should be tapped into.

Doug Brown, chair of Bfast, wants to see a bus schedule with routes that work for people and not the current bus route set up in place.  It doesn't work claims Brown.

Doug Brown, chair of Bfast, wants to see a bus schedule with routes that work for people and not the current bus route set up in place. It doesn’t work claims Brown.

The city no longer has a Transit Advisory committee. The one they did have consisted of had some people who should not have been at the table; they were uninformed, rude and interested only in advancing their personal agendas. There were a few that served well – just not enough of them.

Bfast is an organization the city might think of outsourcing the advisory role to – they have a wealth of talented, informed and committed people that can help make a difference.

Transit wkshp - Smith + Crevan

Councillor Craven on the right explains a point to a transit users meeting participant while James Smith on the right looks on.

There should be a group of people who use the bus daily serving as a sounding board for the people who run the transit service.

Transit apparently doesn’t have a Twitter account – it does have a web site that more than does the job; it’s better than the city’s web site.
Burlington is reported to spend 50% less than comparable municipalities – and it shows.

Bfast Transit group logoBfast will produce a report once they’ve gone through the comments that came from the several breakout groups that were created.   Expected to be completed by the end of April, it will be a solid, fact based report.

Getting the response it needs from city council is not a given – however, the Mayor now has a better understanding of the needs and the problem.

Can he swing the minds of his colleagues? Don’t expect to see Councillors Sharman, Lancaster Taylor or Dennison becoming transit advocates – their focus is on repairing the roads.

The public is going to have to howl louder to get what the city needs. The squeaky wheel does get the grease.

Return to the Front page

The 2014 edition of Ontario's Sunshine list - Burlington has just over 100 people on the list; a lot of them are firefighters.

News 100 redBy Staff

March 29, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

REVISED:

THERE IS A PERSON ON OUR STAFF THAT WILL NOT BE GETTING A BONUS.

THE FIGURES ORIGINALLY POSTED WERE FOR 2013 – THE FIGURES BELOW ARE FOR 2014.  WHEN WE GOOF, WE REALLY GOOF DON’T WE?

$100,000 does bring out a smile.

$100,000 does bring out a smile.

The first figure is the salary component, the second is funds paid for something other than salary that was defined as a taxable benefit.

The people shown in red are part of the Fire Department.

Council members don’t appear on the list because a large part of their income comes from the Region and that is a different list.

For some reason, none of the people at the Economic Development Corporation don`t appear on the list nor is the Librarian.  No one from the Performing Arts Centre or the Burlington Art Gallery.

What is clear from this list is that public sector jobs pay very well.

The 2014 list is just a little shorter than the 2013 list.

 ADCOCK ALAN     Firefighter    $102,031.26    $483.84
ALDHAM JUDY     Field Services Supervisor    $111,009.49    $2,185.06
ALLDRIDGE BRIAN     Platoon Chief    $125,971.19    $649.80
ANTONIOW PHIL     Manager of Program Development, Budgets and Contracts    $114,881.79    $636.11
AXIAK ROB    Manager of Recreation Services    $102,451.31    $562.56
BAKOS MICHAEL    Captain     $108,367.48    $570.96
BARANOWSKI DEREK   Captain    $102,812.05    $514.29
BARRY PHILIP    Captain    $108,850.00    $570.96
BATTAGLIA MARY   Manager of Field Services   $106,085.34   $1,248.03
BAVOTA ANTHONY   Fire Chief $165,324.85   $2,974.19
BAYLOR MARK    Captain    $111,922.02   $570.96
BAYNTON STEVE T.    Captain    $111,754.92    $585.12
BAYSAN ERGUL    Senior Traffic Signal Technician    $100,847.25    $491.60
BEDINI CHRIS    District Supervisor    $110,226.37    $703.61
BENNETT RANDY    Manager IT Infrastructure and Operations   $117,482.38   $652.56
BERDAN MICHAEL   Senior Transit Operations Supervisor    $100,193.47    $458.04
BEVINGTON KIM    Captain    $103,733.66    $526.47
BIELSKI BIANCA    Manager of Development Planning    $136,058.28    $736.98
BIRCH CHARLES T.    Captain    $113,196.51    $585.12
BLACK JEFFREY   Manager of Field Services    $107,380.39    $3,169.47
BOYD LAURA    Human Resource Manager    $106,127.55    $595.79
BRILLON SYLVAIN    Firefighter    $100,768.89    $483.84
BURROWS TRACEY    Manager of By Law and Administration    $101,981.11    $11,207.00
CAUGHLIN DEBORAH   Manager of Council Services    $109,094.40    $587.86
CHOLEWKA CHRIS    Captain    $109,661.47    $570.96
CLARK CARY    Manager of Development and Environmental Engineering    $108,338.17    $592.77
COFFEY PETER    Captain    $109,134.34   $566.28
COULSON ANN MARIE    Man Financial Planning & Taxation    $131,771.98    $722.67
CRASS JOHN    Manager of Traffic Services    $106,951.19   $1,553.48
CRAVEN RICK    Councillor $100,722.85    $562.10
DI PIETRO ITALO    Manager of Infrastructure and Data Management   $119,020.45    $655.90
DONATI DERRICK    Firefighter    $101,411.97   $495.00
DOWD TIMOTHY    Captain   $113,714.92    $585.12
DUNCAN JOHN Transit Manager   $121,674.39    $680.72
DYKES RICHARD   Firefighter    $100,542.18    $509.16
EALES MARK Captain   $107,463.41    $562.64
EICHENBAUM TOOMAS    Director of Engineering    $132,494.20    $511.91
EVANS FRANCES      Manager Halton Court Administration    $106,003.66    $580.83
FIELDING JEFF City Manager   $163,343.09    $4,337.84
FORD JOAN    Director of Finance    $152,992.02    $845.42
FRYER E. TODD    Firefighter    $100,329.68    $509.16
GALEA KYLE    Firefighter    $100,919.65    $483.84
GILROY GERALD    Firefighter    $100,314.51    $485.36
GLENN CHRISTOPHER    Director of Parks and Recreation    $142,035.88    $758.76
GLOBE DARREN    Captain    $108,598.54    $570.96
GOLDRING PATRICK    Mayor $170,025.95    $2,927.50
GRANO FRANCES    Manager of Strategic Information Technology Service Delivery    $101,898.44    $568.61
GRISON GREGORY J.    Captain   $111,754.92    $585.12
HAMILTON SCOTT     Manager Design and Construction    $116,702.59    $642.75
HAMMER CHAD     Captain    $105,795.32    $544.74
HAMMOND BILL    Fire Training Supervisor     $111,519.22    $567.96
HAYES DENNIS M.     Platoon Chief    $124,167.54     $649.80
HEBNER PETER B.     Captain    $113,567.52   $585.12
HURLEY BLAKE    Assistant City Solicitor  $133,679.42   $649.80
JAMES MICHAEL     Fire Training Officer     $101,861.64  $570.96
JARVIS DAWN     Manager of Fire Communications & Admin $104,927.27 $575.94
JONES SHEILA City Auditor $129,085.03 $680.64
JONES STEPHEN Captain $106,570.42 $556.92
JURK ROBERT Senior Project Manager $105,669.95 $585.12
KELL DONNA Manager of Communications     $114,981.30    $638.52
KELLOGG GAVIN    Supervisor Golf Course   $108,587.82    $552.16
KELLY JOHN     Captain      $110,066.14    $570.96
KOEVOETS MATT    District Supervisor      $118,371.00    $1,142.13
KRUSHELNICKI BRUCE    Director Planning and Building    $159,392.67     $891.60
KUBOTA ERIKA    Assistant City Solicitor    $134,953.30    $652.56
LANCASTER BLAIR   Councillor $100,722.85   $562.10
LAPORTE N. JASON   Captain    $107,951.53    $570.96
LASELVA JOHN    Supervisor Building Permits    $104,601.68    $582.72
LEGG TRACIE    Manager Business Services    $101,413.14    $564.55
LONG MARK    Captain    $113,601.59    $585.12
MACDONALD GARY F.   Captain    $112,659.31     $585.12
MACKAY MICHAEL J.      Captain     $111,754.92     $585.12
MAGI ALLAN     Executive Director of Corporate Strategic Initiatives    $180,473.51    $982.32
MALE ROY E.    Executive Director of Human Resources  $180,372.37    $1,012.56
MARTIN CHRISTOPHER   Captain    $106,638.03    $556.92
MATHESON JAMIE    Firefighter    $100,887.23     $483.84
MCGUIRE CHRIS    District Supervisor    $108,192.88    $683.50
MEED WARD MARIANNE    Councillor $100,722.85    $562.10
MEEHAN DAVID    Firefighter    $102,019.98    $510.10
MERCANTI CINDY    Manager of Recreation Services    $113,924.30    $473.50
MINAJI ROSALIND    Coordinator Development Review    $101,438.02    $568.14
MONTEITH ROSS A.    Deputy Fire Chief    $145,953.17    $1,372.72
MORGAN ANGELA    City Clerk    $143,711.02    $770.03
MYERS PETER R.    Captain    $111,754.93    $585.12
NICELIU KENNETH    Firefighter    $102,254.95    $509.16
NICHOLSON J. ALAN    Captain    $111,754.92    $585.12
O’REILLY SANDRA    Controller and Manager of Financial Services    $110,567.13    $604.47
PEACHEY ROBERT    Manager Parks and Open Space    $114,401.18    $633.57
PHILLIPS KIMBERLEY General Manager    $185,505.87    $7,599.39
POLIZIANI MATTHEW    Captain    $107,805.24    $556.92
REID DAVID    Fire Prevention Officer    $101,295.09    $556.92
REILLY PETER   Captain    $111,754.91    $585.12
ROBERTSON CATHARINE    Director of Roads and Parks Maintenance    $149,458.02 $1,403.87
ROESCH GORD CHARLES    Fire Training Officer    $101,821.02   $542.88
SCHMIDT-SHOUKRI JASON   Manager of Building Permit Services and Chief Building Official   $133,681.16   $748.20
SHAHZAD ARIF   Senior Environmental Engineer    $102,105.76   $567.67
SHARMAN PAUL   Councillor   $100,722.85   $562.10
SHEA NICOL NANCY   City Solicitor    $172,124.38   $836.38
SHIELDS LISA    Assistant City Solicitor   $136,246.06   $651.90
SLACK CRAIG D.   Platoon Chief   $126,694.90    $649.80
SMITH CLINT     Platoon Chief      $125,523.38     $649.80
SMITH SIMON Firefighter    $100,300.17    $495.00
SPICER MIKE    Director of Transit    $129,920.15    $721.53
STEIGINGA RON    Manager of Realty Services    $112,646.26    $619.76
STEVENS CRAIG    Senior Project Manager    $103,459.71    $568.88
STEWART SCOTT    General Manager    $227,077.25    $9,381.94
SWENOR CHRISTINE   Director Information Technology Services    $156,493.35    $876.68
TAGGART DAVID    Manager Facility Assets    $112,157.40    $462.71
THANDI JAZZ    Manager Procurement Services    $107,953.94    $592.99
VRAKELA STEVE    Field Services Supervisor    $105,436.15    $1,920.30
WEBER JEFF    Deputy Fire Chief    $116,019.23     $7,670.64
WHEATLEY RYAN    Captain    $110,028.42    $570.96
WIGNALL T. MARK    Firefighter     $101,647.73    $509.16
WINTAR JOSEPH    Chief Fire Prevention Officer    $110,961.56    $621.60
WOODS DOUGLAS S.    Captain    $113,128.08    $585.12
ZVANIGA BRUCE    Director of Transportation Services    $153,951.49    $787.56

Return to the Front page

Free breakfast Saturday if you get to the library on time and talk about your transit experiences.

News 100 greenBy Staff

March 25, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

Now that travelling transit is about to experience a sharp increase in ridership – heck the Mayor takes the bus to work now – Burlington’s Friends and supporters of Transit (Bfast) wants to pull together people who have used transit and hear what they have to say about the service.

Bfast meeting March 28-15This is the third public meeting Bfast has held – their purpose has been to focus attention on transit in a city that hasn’t taken to that mode of transportation.

Bfast has had the view that city council isn’t really transit friendly – the Transit Advisory committee was shut down and some of the gas tax money the city gets from the province got put into infrastructure repairs rather than transit.

A newly formed transit will be known as Bfast - they intend to inform the debate on transit and insure the issue of transit service doesn't get lost in the Official Plan Review

The first Bfast event had Paul Bedford, a former chief planner for Toronto and a strong transit advocate spoke about Transit from an overall GTA wide Lets-Just-Get-On-With-It point of view.

The second session was a Panel Discussion with a City Councillor Rick Craven,
a VP from Metrolinx, MPP & Legislative Assistant to the minister of Transportation, Mike Colle, Burlington Green, and journalist Lorraine Sommerfeld

If there was ever a place to locate a transit terminal - that would be John Street where the only terminal in the city is now located.  Transit department is recommending it be removed and tickets sold at city hall.  Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward isn't buying that business case

There was a point during the last term of council that the city looked seriously at the idea of closing the small ticket office – that led many to wonder how serious the city is about transit. If there was ever a place to locate a transit terminal – that would be John Street where the only terminal in the city is now located.

This third public meeting they are attempting to shift the discussion to make it user focused. Bfast wants to be able to take the experiences of those who attend the meeting and work them into a set of Good, Bad, Ugly bits that we can then package up into recommendations for how to improve Burlington Transit.

There are 50+ registrations including the Mayor, and Councillor Paul Sharman plus the city’s MPP Eleanor McMahon.

Share your experiences and what it is like for you riding the bus with Burlington Transit

Share your ideas for improving transit and special transit

Register at electronically or by phone –  905-632-4774.

Complimentary continental breakfast provided.

Return to the Front page

Proposed provincial changes to the Planning Act might help Burlington transit and bring an end to five years reviews of the Official Plan

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

March 5, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

Ontario is proposing reforms to the Planning Act and the Development Charges Act that would give residents a greater say in how their communities grow and would provide more opportunities to fund community services like transit and recycling.

At some point all the data and all the public input gets placed in front of Burlington's Planner, Bruce Kruselniiki - who will issue a report and city council will make decisions.  Creating the downtown the city wants and needs has not been an easy process for Burlington.

City planner Bruce Bruce Krushelnicki will undoubtedly applaud the proposal the have Official Plan Reviews done every ten years instead of the current five.

The proposed Planning Act changes, if passed, would:

Ensure residents are better consulted at the beginning of the planning process for new developments.
Encourage residents to provide feedback on the future of their communities.
Help municipalities resolve potential planning disputes earlier, reducing involvement of the Ontario Municipal Board in local disputes.
Extend the review of new municipal official plans to 10 years, instead of the current five-year cycle.

Bfast Transit group logoIf passed the Bfast people (Burlington for Accessible Transit) will burst with Joy! – and probably have to have Pacemakers installed to still their beating hearts.

Burlington has always had a confusing relationship with transit – most people don’t use it – and council doesn’t like spending for a service that isn’t used all that much

Changes to the Development Charges Act, if passed, would:

Help municipalities recover costs for transit services and waste diversion.
Create clear reporting requirements for capital projects municipalities financed though development charges, as well as section 37 of the Planning Act related to density bonusing and parkland dedication.

Working groups of stakeholders will review and consider further more complex land use planning and development charges issues, and propose solutions.

The proposed amendments are based on input from across Ontario including more than 20 public workshops and stakeholder meetings held from October 2013 to January 2014.

More than 1,200 submissions on the land use planning and appeal system, and the development charges system were received during the reviews.
Approximately 200 of Ontario’s 444 municipalities use development charges.

Bus station 1

Province appears to want more public input on transit decisions – might mean crating a new transit Advisory Committee. We scrapped the one we had.

The announcement from the provincial government this morning are proposals that will have to be debated and it will take some time for them to work their way into the way business is done in the province.  If passed they have the potential to make significant changes in the way transit development gets done and the rile the public can play.

The question left hanging for Burlington on this one is:  Will we have our Official Plan revised and voted on before the province makes these proposals law?

Ten years between Official Plan reviews must have resulted in huge sighs of relief in the city’s planning department.

 

 

 

 

Return to the Front page

Escarpment is part of a provincial review of the Ontario Greenbelt; Crombie to chair the panel.

News 100 greenBy Pepper Parr

February 27, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

Ontario is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the largest permanently protected greenbelt in the world and looking to the future by reviewing the land use It is the largest permanently protected greenbelt in the world.plans of southern Ontario. The Greenbelt protects farmland, green space and clean water.

Our Escarpment is a part of this review.

The Province will hold public consultations, across the Greater Golden Horseshoe and Greenbelt area, on the review of four provincial land use plans to grow the Greenbelt, protect prime agricultural land, build transit friendly communities and support economic development. The province will undertake a co-ordinated review of:

The Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe
• The Greenbelt Plan
• The Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan
• The Niagara Escarpment Plan

In addition to public consultations, like town hall meetings, Ontarians will also be able to comment through the Environmental Registry.

fourth

David Crombie, former Toronto Mayor and one of the best friends Burlington has seems pained at Mayor Goldring’s comments.fourth

The review, which is expected to be complete by early 2016, will also benefit from the input of an expert advisory panel, chaired by David Crombie, former federal cabinet minister and former mayor of Toronto. Other panel members include:

Keith Currie, Vice President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Rae Horst, former CAO, Credit Valley Conservation Authority
John MacKenzie, Commissioner of Planning, City of Vaughan
Debbie Zimmerman, CEO, Grape Growers of Ontario
Leith Moore, Senior Vice President, Urban Fieldgate Homes

Having this review panel chair by David Crombie is good news for Burlington. Crombie has been a friend of the city for years and in the past has chided Burlington for not doing all that it could do to ensure there is a consistent Waterfront Trail.

Burlington recently agreed to sell of some prime waterfront property along the edge of Lake Ontario between Market and St, Paul Streets because it didn’t believe there was any real potential for a trail continuation in that part of the city.

Escarpment-from-Walkers-Line-Oct-121-1024x571

The Escarpment is what gives us a large part of our identity.

While the waterfront isn’t within the mandate for a Greenbelt review it is the waterfront and the Escarpment that define this city.

Burlingtonians know that there are still bureaucrats within the Ministry of Transportation who want to push a road through that part of the city
Citizens are invited to make comment on the Environmental Registry. Click here to get to the Registry – and if you can make any sense of it – tell us how you did it.

Return to the Front page

Tax rate for residential in 2015 set at 3.64% more than 2014. Long term view has a lot of road repair work to be done.

burlbudgetBy Pepper Parr

February 24, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

The budget was done – out came the rubber stamp – but they didn’t use it. There were a couple of minor amendments.
There was one delegation – the Marsden’s saying they had researched James Ridge the new manager and they approved of him.

City taxes for Burlington home owners will increase 3.64% over what they were last tear.

Dennison, on the left, explaining the budget to a resident.  will Dennison be back at council next term?  Not if the people in Roseland decide who is going to represent Ward 4 next term.

Dennison, on the left, explaining the budget to a resident. Dennison felt the revenue side of the budget could have been increased by $400,000.

The decision to adopt the budget was not unanimous – Councilor Dennison had wanted to add two revenue items – each worth $200,000 to the budget. His colleagues didn’t agree with him – so Jack decided he would not vote for the budget.

The city media release calls the 2015 operating budget one with a continued focus on ensuring cost effective service delivery, strategic investment in infrastructure and additional funding to address climate change events such as the ice storm and August 2014 flood.

2015 marks the first time the budget has been presented in a new service-based budget approach. Budget highlights include:

Aligning existing service delivery costs with inflation.

Not sure how an increase of 3.64% is described as aligned with inflation which is currently less than 2%

An additional $1.745 million of funding dedicated to the renewal of the city’s aging infrastructure
$4.5 million of funding for flood mitigation measures
$900,000 to expand transit service and increase support for Heritage, the Sound of Music Festival and the Art Gallery of Burlington.

“This budget is based on services rather than by departments. It gives a more transparent view of how tax dollars are invested and that is significant,” said Mayor Rick Goldring. “Once again, staff and City Council have found a way to balance the excellent quality of life we enjoy in Burlington with the long-term financial planning we rely on, all the while keeping taxes competitive with other municipalities.”

The Mayor chose not to mention that the twenty year forecast has tax increases at the 4% level for a long time.

The 2015 Budget includes a 3.64 per cent increase in the city’s portion of property taxes. When combined with Halton Region and the boards of education, the overall property tax increase is 2.06 per cent or $18.08 for each $100,000 of residential urban assessment.

That statement is true – but it is also very misleading. Burlington has zero impact on the education budget – that is set by the province. Burlington’s director of finance gets a number from the province and is told how much to collect and where to send it.

That statement about the overall property tax increase being  2.06%  is true - it is also very misleading.  Deliberately so?Not much different with the Region. Burlington sends seven people to the 21 member Regional Council. We have input, we have some sway – but not as much as Oakville, even though they have the same number of representatives on the Regional Council – they are just much more effective than the Burlington members.

Burlington’s city council is responsible for Burlington’s budget and it is that on which their performance should be measured.

It is confusing to give out a number that is not ours.

They used to call a person who gave out misleading information a “flim flam” man.

Telling people the tax increase is 2.08% more than it was the previous year is true – but we can’t take credit for that. We are responsible for the 3.64 % increase in our own spending.

 

 

Return to the Front page

Two of the nine business cases the city has in its 2015 budget: better transit for seniors and 3D graphic modelling software.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

December 30, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The city is taking a different approach to the way they present their budget to the public and a significantly different approach to how staff work with the funds they are given to use.

In an effort to show tax payers where the money is going and the value gotten from the spending the city is now setting up budgets based on the service delivered rather than on just the department that that does the spending.

Results Based Accountability – the city wants you to know that staff will be accountable for the results they deliver.This approach has introduced a significantly different business process management and brings forward a phrase you are going to hear a lot of from your council member: Results Based Accountability – the city wants you to know that staff will be accountable for the results they deliver.

Not quite sure how that phrase would be applied to the pier. Several council members expressed concern and surprise over how many people in their wards had not ever been to the pier. Yet we spent more than twice the original price of $6 million – and I’ve yet to hear any Council member even mention the word accountability let along accept any responsibility for the thing – which the public appears not to care all that much about.

The city has released a draft budget that will call for a tax increase of 3.55% in 2015 – a little higher than inflation isn’t it?
Included in that budget are nine business cases for new, or improved or upgraded services. Each business case sets out the argument for the expenditure.

One of the nine business cases is about transit – a service expansion, an upgraded Community Connection will cost $337,000, add three Full time employees (FTE’s) and tack on one quarter of one percent to the tax levy.

This service is designed to connect the places where seniors live to the places seniors want to travel to. The Seniors’ Centre would be the hub for this service.

There is nothing fancy about the place.  It's simple, serves the purpose   with a bus stop almost outside the door and plenty of parking.  And the kitchen will rustle you up a sandwich if you're hungry.  The Seniors like it the way it is.

There is nothing fancy about the place. It’s simple, serves the purpose with a bus stop almost outside the door and plenty of parking. The site will become a bit of a mobility hub for the Community Connection the city proposes to upgrade.

There is a Community Connection service that runs just two days a week – the proposal is to make this a Monday to Friday service running from 10am to 3 pm with additional links added to the service.

The Business Plan approach requires that the potential benefits and risks be spelled out and that what the metric for success will be. Smaller buses will mean lower fuel costs (lower gas prices aren’t going to hurt either) – the risk at this level is defined as low.

The Business Plan approach requires staff to explain “How Success will be measured”. Here they set the bar so low that they can’t possibly fail. Transit staff talk in terms of an additional 8 boarding’s each hour on the route. The service, if approved, will run for five hours each day –and they call success a total of 40 boarding’s during the week. That seems like an almost incredibly low number. It gets taken up to 14 boardings an hour in 2016.

Included in the nine new business cases is an $84,000 expenditure for 3D Visualization software – which the city should have bought five years ago. It’s a minor expense but the business case doesn’t tell the full story. There doesn’t appear to be any allocation for staff training nor is there any mention of ongoing upgrades to the software – and with software there are always upgrades.

Doug Brown wants an affordable, frequent, reliable transit service.  Is the city prepared to pay for it?

The terminal on John Street where many of the bus service transfers are made is to be made one of the mobility hubs in the city.  Still a lot of thinking to be done on how the parking lot gets integrated into the plan.

The benefit to the city is they will have a tool that will allow them to create images of the growth of the community. “Building on existing models” the business case made adds that “the downtown will be completed first with other mobility hub areas and intensification corridors to follow”. Mobility hubs are points in the city where different transportation modes come together: the GO stations at Aldershot, Burlington and Appleby Line are the prime identified bubs at the moment with the John street terminal added. There are many that believe there should be an additional hub somewhere near the top of Appleby Line.

We took this ...

Six properties were assembled in a part of the city that is to some degree isolated – they’ve basically nothing in the way of parks – and crossing the railway tracks is one way this community gets its daily exercise.

werf bfgt

Those six properties in the Queensway shown above were assembled, houses demolished and 54 units built.  would 3D modelling have let the public know how massive the change was going to be?

The 3D models will be used for public engagement, council meetings and visioning exercises. “One of the central elements of the project will be the ability to build the model by requiring builders and developers to submit images of proposed and completed development projects for import to the model.

3D vizualization modelling

An example of 3D rendering. The software used to create the image allows the image to be seen at different angles and elevations. Creatively used it can be a very effective tool.

The Capital Works department says “success will be measured by” Customer satisfaction but it isn’t clear just who the customer is. The developers are not going to like the additional expense. They might want access to the model – will the city give it to them?

Heck – the Gazette would like access to that model.

The other two success criteria are “Model Utilization” and the “% of Complaint submissions”. So they have thought of the complaints that will come in. Interesting.

Each business case is required to set out the potential risks and benefits and what the probabilities of each actually are. The benefit/risk probability for the project is high if the project proves to provide an effective tool to assist Council and the public to visualize alternate development proposals.

Not implementing the service is given a medium probability due to the “lack of community support and understanding of intensification”.

Software will show the public what intensification will look like before it gets shoved down their throats.And that is what this $84,000 expenditure is really all about – showing the public what intensification will look like before it gets shoved down their throats.

Return to the Front page

City delivers 25 different services; spent $134 million - which was up $2.1 million from previous year.

burlbudgetBy Pepper Parr

November 15, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

 

The 2015 budget will take a significantly different approach in the way it is presented to the public.  There will be a focus on Results Based Accountability with the service delivered more easily identified and understood.  Tax payers will see the service; its cost and who is responsible for delivering that service efficiently and effectively.  The first step in getting to that point was to create an inventory of services delivered to the public and to place them in categories for administrative purposes.  What the city actually does for you is set out below.

 What has city hall done for you lately? How about changing that to – what does city hall do for you anyway? And for that there is an answer.

City Hall BEST aerial

Just under 1000 people working full and part time deliver 25 different services to the public. The building they work in can no longer hold them all.

They call it their Portfolio of Services – which is a list of all the things the city does for you.  Burlington has what city hall calls an Insight Panel – which is a group of people who answer questions the city poses on the development of a service or a policy. It is a relatively small group of people but it does serve as a good sampling – it includes the balance needed to include gender, location, income, education, home owner or renter. The important part is the city doesn’t know and never will know who you are – they just know what you are.

The city used the Insight Panel to ask some questions about the portfolio of services. It wanted to know how well people understood the names given to the service and the description of the service.

The information being gathered is the first step towards Service Based Budgeting and Results Based Accountability.

The city will assign responsibility for the efficient and within budget delivery of each service and in time will ask the public if they want to continue spending a specific percentage of the budget and a set dollar amount on a specific service.

The following is a list of the services the city delivers.

Building Code Permit & Inspection Service
Development Review Service
Parks & Open Space Design & Development Service
Cultural Service
Organized Sport Support Service
Recreation Service
Council & Citizen Committee Service
Service Burlington
Cemetery Service
Parks & Open Space Maintenance Service
Roads & Sidewalk Maintenance Service
Street Lighting Service
Surface Water Drainage Service
Tree Management Service
Animal Control Service
By-Law Enforcement Service
Emergency Management Service
Fire Protection Service
Halton Court Service
Roads & Structures – Design & Construction Service
Parking Management Service
Traffic Operations Service
Transit Service
Transportation Planning Service
Winter Control Service

Each of these services will be put into a category – the city wanted to know what the panel thought about the six categories they had created and if a specific service should be in a particular category.

674 people were invited to take part in the survey; 385 started and 252 completed what was a long and at times complex survey.

In the report summary staff reported:

What We Learned
• Providing a visual reference, such as a picture, helps the public identify with a service; however, it is important the pictures truly represent the service to avoid confusion.
• The word “service” is over used and redundant.
• Descriptions must be clear and use easy-to-understand language.
• Categories must be well defined and their use must be clear.

What We Will Do
• Work with our service owners and communications partners to identify the appropriate pictures to associate with the service.
• Eliminate the word “service” from the service name.
• Work with our service owners to ensure clear and use easy-to-understand language is used in the descriptions and in other information related to the services.
• Use the comments from the panel to prompt discussion with service owners to refine our services.
• Revisit the category names and the categorization to refine based on feedback.

Of those who completed the survey the city wanted them to comment on the following:

Clarity: There were more favourable comments than unfavourable comments; that is, 70% were favourable and 30% were unfavourable. Of the favourable comments, 42% referred to the overall view being easy to follow.

Of the 30% unfavourable comments, the majority of these comments reflected the redundant use of the word “service” and the lack of clarity in the category names representing the services.

Format: There were more unfavourable comments than favourable comments; that is, 73% were unfavourable and 27% were favourable. Of the unfavourable comments, 28% related to the font size (e.g. being too small) and 20% referred to the need for the visual to be more appealing.

Completeness: There were only unfavourable comments related to completeness. The majority of the comments related to the catalogue not being complete with all services including reference to services provided by the Region of Halton.

Six categories were created with like services clustered together in a single category.
1) Design and Build; 2)Maintenance; 3)Roads and Transportation; 4)Leisure; 5)Local government support; 6) Public Safety and asked if a service belonged in a specific category.

Design & Build Category
Building Code Permit & Inspection Service: Over 70% of the respondents indicated the name and description were suitable. When asked to place the service into a category, over 75% of respondents selected the Design & Build category.

Development Review Service: Less than 50% of respondents indicated the name was suitable and slightly more than 55% of respondents indicated the description was suitable. When asked to place the service into a category, over 75% of respondents selected the Design & Build category.

Market-water-street-lots-Ziegler-drawing

This is a little park that the public may never see – staff thought the city should lease the land on the edge of the lake between Market and St. Paul streets – council has decided to sell it – but that’s not a done deal yet.

Parks & Open Space Design & Development Service: More than 60% of respondents indicated the name was suitable and slightly more than 55% of respondents indicated the description was suitable. When asked to place the service into a category, over 60% of respondents selected the Design & Build category.

Leisure Category
Cultural Service: Less than 50% of respondents indicated the name was suitable and less than 60% of respondents indicated the description was suitable. When asked to place the service into a category, over 75% of respondents selected the Leisure category. Seven respondents made specific comments that the Cultural Service name was too vague.

Organized Sport Support Service: Slightly less than 65% of respondents indicated the name was suitable and slightly more than 65% of respondents indicated the description was suitable. When asked to place the service into a category, over 90% of respondents selected the Leisure category.

Recreation Service: 75% of respondents indicated the name was suitable and more than 70% of respondents indicated the description was suitable. When asked to place the service into a category, over 80% of respondents selected the Leisure category.

Local Government Support Category
Council & Citizen Committee Service: Slightly less than 60% of respondents indicated the name was suitable and slightly less than 65% of respondents indicated the description was suitable. When asked to

wervbg

Residents gather to review a budget that the city has basically already made up their mind about. Some want a more open, transparent budget process. Results Based Accountability could be a first step towards this happening.

place the service into a category, over 90% of respondents selected the Local Government Support category. Six respondents made comments indicating the service description should highlight citizen committees.

Service Burlington: Slightly less than 55% of respondents indicated the name was suitable and only 40% of respondents indicated the description was suitable. When asked to place the service into a category, over 75% of respondents selected the Local Government Support category. Thirteen respondents made specific comments indicating the name and description were too vague.

Maintenance Category
Cemetery Service: Over 70% of respondents indicated the name and description were suitable. When asked to place the service into a category, fewer than 40% of respondents selected the Maintenance category and almost 35% indicated that it did not fit into a category. Five respondents made comments indicating Cemetery Service does not fit well into a category.

Parks & Open Space Maintenance Service: Over 75% of respondents indicated the name and description were suitable. When asked to place the service into a category, over 75% of respondents selected the Maintenance category.

 

This is what we need to avoid.  If you clear the catch basin a couple of times the next few days we can avoid problems like this.

That’s certainly surface water drainage.

Roads & Sidewalk Maintenance Service: Over 75% of respondents indicated the name and description were suitable. When asked to place the service into a category, 60% of respondents selected the Maintenance category, while over 30% selected the Roads & Transportation category.

Street Lighting Service: Over 80% of respondents indicated the name and description were suitable. When asked to place the service into a category, 50% of respondents selected the Maintenance category while over 35% of respondents selected the Roads & Transportation category.

Surface Water Drainage Service: 75% of respondents indicated the name was suitable and over 70% of respondents indicated the description was suitable. When asked to place the service into a category, over 70% of respondents selected the Maintenance category. Three respondents made specific comments indicating the description was unclear.

Tree Management Service: Over 75% of respondents indicated the name and description were suitable. When asked to place the service into a category, over 85% of respondents selected the Maintenance category. Three respondents made specific comments indicating the name should be more descriptive and include the loose leaf pick-up program.

Public Safety Category:
Animal Control Service: Over 80% of respondents indicated the name was suitable and over 70% of respondents indicated the description was suitable. When asked to place the service into a category, approximately 50% of respondents selected the Public Safety category, while 25% of respondents felt it did not fit into a category and another 20% of respondents selected the Local Government Support category. Two respondents comments indicated the description was unclear and should be expanded and three respondents’ comments indicated it did not fit into a category.

Rain damage Applyby Line south of air park south gate

Barbara Sheldon look at 32 feet of landfill less than 50 feet from her kitchen window.  All dumped without any permits because an airport is federally regulated.  The city is not done with this issue.

That hill of land fill that no one really knows where it came from was done without an approved site plan.  The city had to go to court to force the Air Park owners to comply.  They have yet to do so.

By-Law Enforcement Service: Over 75% of respondents indicated the name was suitable and slightly less than 70% of respondents indicated the description was suitable. When asked to place the service into a category, less than 50% of respondents selected the Public Safety category, while over 25% of respondents selected the Local Government Support category. Three respondents’ comments indicated this service should be merged with Parking Management Service.

Emergency Management Service: Close to 75% of respondents indicated the name and description were suitable. When asked to place the service into a category, more than 70% of respondents selected the Public Safety category. Two respondents’ comments indicated the name was unclear.

Fire Protection Service: Over 85% of respondents indicated the name was suitable and almost 75% of respondents indicated that the description was suitable. When asked to place the service into a category, more than 90% of respondents selected the Public Safety category. Two respondents’ comments indicated the description was unclear.

Halton Court Service: Over 65% of respondents indicated the name and over 70% of respondents indicated the description was suitable. When asked to place the service into a category, less than 55% of respondents selected the Local Government Support category, while over 20% selected the Public Safety category and another 20% of respondents indicated it did not fit into a category. Two respondents’ comments indicated Halton Court Service did not fit into a category and three respondents’ comments indicated the name was vague.

Roads & Transportation Category:
Roads and Structures Design & Construction Service: Less than 70% of respondents indicated the name and description were suitable. When asked to place the service into a category, slightly less than 60% of respondents selected the Roads & Transportation category, while approximately 35% selected the Design & Build category.

Parking Management Service: Slightly over 80% of respondents indicated the name was suitable and slightly over 75% indicated the description was suitable. When asked to place the service into a category, over 60% of respondents selected the Roads & Transportation category. Three respondents’ comments indicated this service should be merged with By-Law & Enforcement Service.

 

Traffic barriers in place on LAkeshore for the Car Free Sunday last year were expensive and not really used.  The event was poorly attended.

Traffic barriers in place on LAkeshore for the Car Free Sunday last year were expensive and not really used. The event was poorly attended.  An opportunity for better traffic management.

Traffic Operations Service: Over 60% of respondents indicated the name and over 65% of respondents indicated the description was suitable. When asked to place the service into a category, over 65% of respondents selected the Roads & Transportation category, while 20% selected Public Safety category. Five respondents’ comments indicated the name was unclear.

Transit Service: Over 80% of respondents indicated the name and over 75% of respondents indicated the description was suitable. When asked to place the service into a category, slightly less than 85% of respondents selected the Roads & Transportation category.

Transportation Planning Service: Slightly less than 65% of respondents indicated the name and slightly less than 60% of respondents indicated the description was suitable. When asked to place the service into a category, more than 65% of respondents selected the Roads & Transportation category, while over 20% of respondents selected the Design & Build category. Four respondents’ comments indicated the description was unclear.

One of the more than 25 pieces of equipment out clearing the primary roads - today they were out at 3 am.

One of the more than 25 pieces of equipment out clearing the primary roads – on this day they were out at at 3 am.

Winter Control Service: Over 70% of respondents indicated the name and over 80% of respondents indicated the description was suitable. When asked to place the service into a category, less than 50% of respondents selected the Roads & Transportation category, while over 30% of respondents selected the Maintenance category. Seventeen respondent comments specifically indicated winter cannot be controlled.

This is what your city does for you. In a couple of months they will tell you how much of your money they want to pay for these services.

The budget that is presented for 2015 will be quite a bit different than what the public saw for 2014. The Gazette will report on all the changes.

 

Return to the Front page

Municipal Political Parties - Is it Time?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

November 8, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON

 

roman-senate

The Roman Senate – not what we have in Burlington.

The political party is an essential component of representative democracy. The Athenian (Greek) model of direct democracy allowed everyone to get into the act, but that is an impossibility in todays busy, modern, and heavily populated world. So we are stuck with political parties, warts and all.

Parties make it easier for the voter to choose, particularly in a bi-cameral system such as the US has, with Republicans or Democrats the only choice on election day. Americans, tired of Obama’s leadership, swept his party’s representatives out of office and replaced them with Republicans in this week’s congressional elections. And in almost all cases voters were electing the party, not the person.

 

deru

Councillors Rick Craven and Marianne Meed Ward are both known Liberals but there is precious little they agree on.

Parties also make it easier for the candidate to present him/her self and to identify issues. The party system simplifies choice, since formal party platforms offer voters a clear choice among competing philosophies of governance. This may be one of the reasons why voter turnout is consistently higher in provincial and federal elections than for municipal elections where parties are banned (in Ontario).

Of course, municipal issues are pretty mundane stuff. Dealing with zoning, stop signs, speed limits and development proposals isn’t as sexy as sending CF-18’s into action over Iraq, or ramming an oil pipeline through environmentally sensitive land. Still these local issues matter to residents concerned with transit, development charges, local taxes and urban sprawl.

But I’ve never understood voting for school trustees? Isn’t education policy delivered and delivered by the Province? Wouldn’t the administration of schools and children’s transportation be best left to the local authorities (cities) where they are situated? And isn’t it already confusing enough for voters to have to deal with choosing a mayor and ward councillor, in addition to potential referenda questions. Perhaps internet voting will help facilitate this process.

Parties do a lot of the legwork for the voting public by screening candidates, training them in fulfilling their duties and disciplining them when they screw-up. For example, Trudeau has just removed two MP’s from his Liberal caucus over accusations of sexual harassment. Unlike individual candidates, the party candidate not only represents him/herself but everyone else connected to the party – their ideals, principles and policies. Rob Ford would never have lasted as long as he did were he representing a respectable political party.

Election results HOME page map

New candidates in every ward, many that were very credible – but Burlington voters decided they were happy with what they had – well at least just over 30% were happy and actually voted.

To look at last week’s municipal election results one couldn’t be blamed for thinking they’d been voting in Russia or Syria, if only because the results are mostly a foregone conclusion. Well, except for Toronto where the Ford brothers did make for a colourful election. Incumbents normally have a huge advantage running as individuals because their names have been made familiar in the media and they have no official daily opposition to challenge them.

In addition, new candidates face an uphill battle, particularly if the electoral field is huge as it was for Toronto’s mayor, with over 50 contestants. Then there are all those local issues which can leave newbies vulnerable in candidates’ debates, depending on their exposure. Funding and organizing a campaign can also serve as huge barriers for a potential new candidate.

Jack Layton attempted to bring party politics into Toronto many years ago with his Metro NDP. Lacking political infrastructure, like an Elections Toronto, his venture ended up working out a lot like Ford Nation – it didn’t. Montreal and Vancouver have had successful, working political parties, which for the most part are independent of those at the senior levels. One wonders how Ontario’s best known perpetual incumbents, Mississauga’s Hazel McCallion and Milton’s Gordon Krantz, the queen and king of urban sprawl, would have fared in a partisan environment. At least the development issue might have received more public airing.

Debate Bentivegna and Sanghera

Angelo Bentivegna and Jivan Sanghera in discussion after the ward debate

An important consideration is how to keep good people wanting to compete for municipal offices, though the odds seem stacked against them. Not that long ago municipal elections were held every two years, then it got bumped to three, and now it is four. The longer the period between elections, the less the chance for new people to get involved. And then Ontario experienced a spate of municipal consolidations through forced amalgamations in the 1990’s which ended up reducing council positions and, thus, opportunities.

In Burlington all those who spent their time and money to challenge the existing council ended up going home disappointed this year. That might still have been the case were there political parties for voters to choose from, rather than just somebody’s name. We’ll just hope that these people who committed themselves to public service don’t all give up even though it’ll be four years before they can try again.

Rivers-direct-into-camera1-173x300Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking. Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran against Cam Jackson in 1995, the year Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution swept the province.

Direct Democracy   More Parties   Duties of Trusties   Even More Parties   Montreal Parties 

Toronto Parties  Trustees   More Toronto Parties   Councillor Duties 

Hurricane Hazel   E-Voting   Metro NDP   Vancouver Parties 

 

Return to the Front page

Is the 2014 election race the beginning of the Meed Ward 2018 race for the office of Mayor?

council 100x100By Pepper Parr

October 26, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON

 

If the incumbent in ward 2 is beaten October 27th – it will be the upset of the year.
There are two challengers; one who we suspect has been put up to running and the other should find a new hobby.

Marianne Meed Ward is what the commercial people call a “disrupter” – she wants to change the way the city operates and she wants to get people involved. She doesn’t have much time for the social groups who feel they have influence and clout and she has no time for the vested interests.

dfer

Meed Ward was a frequent delegator at city council meetings.  Anyone wanting to run for Council in the future wants to look at her model – it works.

Meed Ward cannot avoid a microphone and is like a moth to a flame when the television cameras appear. Some think she talks too much – and she does. She spoke longer than the candidate when Katrina Gould was being nominated as the Liberal choice for Burlington in the next federal election.

She drives her council colleague’s bananas – Councillor Taylor rolls his eyes frequently when Meed Ward is going on and on – and he is her friend.

However, when Meed Ward is going on she is asking the questions that need to be asked; she is asking the questions that no one else bothers to ask.

 

They had every reason to be smiling.  Councillors Meed Ward and Lancaster pose with five members of the Friends of Freeman Station after the Council meeting that approved the entering into of a Joint Venture that would have the Friends moving the station and taking on the task of renovating the building.

They had every reason to be smiling. Councillors Meed Ward and Lancaster pose with five members of the Friends of Freeman Station after the Council meeting that approved the entering into of a Joint Venture that would have the Friends moving the station and taking on the task of renovating the building.

She, along with Councillor Blair Lancaster, saved Freeman Station from destruction.

Council will consider a Code of Conduct which Councillor Craven wants to see in place hoping that it will keep Meed Ward out of his territory. Craven goes close to ballistic when Meed Ward talks about ward 1 issues. Craven takes the old approach to local politics – each Councillor is responsible for their ward and they keep their noses out of the others. Meed Ward sees herself as on Council to represent ward 2 specifically but she feels free to speak about issues in every ward.

She is by far the most aggressive member of Council, aggressive in a positive way; but that doesn’t make it any easier for her council colleagues to cope with. They don’t share her approach to municipal politics – she works for participation and inclusion. She is usually quite comfortable delegating and letting the people, who are going to be impacted by a decision, be part of the decision making process.

The six storey version of the project

Meed Ward wanted this project to be not more than four storeys in height to protect the character of the neighbour. The economics of the project made that impossible.

Meed Ward does have problems with her understanding of economic fundamentals. She wanted the Maranatha project on New Street to be much smaller than economics of development make necessary.

Meed Ward doesn’t think the city has to change it rules so that developers can make a profit. The people developing Maranatha are certainly not your classic developer; this is a Christian organization that looks for ways to create housing that meets the needs of different groups.

The economics of buying property don’t seem to matter to Meed Ward, but they are a reality for anyone wanting to build anything. The people whose property is being bought want the best price they can get. The prices paid for the property assembled determine to a large degree what the cost of the units being offered will amount to – that economic fundamental seems to go right over Meed Ward’s head.

While Meed Ward talks about a collaborative approach to solving problems and arriving at solutions – collaboration means creating groups that can work together and it would be difficult to point to an occasion, when she has been able to work closely with her colleagues. The Freeman station cooperation was more of an exception than a rule.

It is often her against them. Like it or not, Council is made up of seven people and Meed Ward needs to work with all of them. We did not see much of that in her first term of office.  She has worked closely with Councillor Lancaster on saving the Freeman Station from destruction – so it can be done.

Molinaro paradigm project

The Molinaro Paradigm project will change the stretch of Fairview and Brant hugely and result in major changes in future development in the area.

Meed Ward also worked closely with the Molinaro’s on their Paradigm project on Fairview next to the GO station. So she can and has worked with developers.

Mayoral candidate Peter Rusin however pointed out that there are going to be just five affordable housing units in the five structure complex: “who negotiated that deal” he asked. Good question – who did negotiate that deal and was that the best that could be done.

There is a lot of fuzziness around affordable housing – how it works and where the responsibility lies for the creation of affordable units and then assuring that they remain affordable. Some leadership is needed on this – Meed Ward is the logical one to take this on – so far we’ve not seen the kind of leadership this issue needs.

According to the Meed Ward Newsletter web site: “…a number of developers have agreed to meet with residents before submitting development proposals, and in several cases they’ve modified their plans based on your input, most notably the Molinaro “Paradigm” project on Fairview. More than a dozen changes were made to that project after two public design workshops, all voluntary since the project has already been approved by the OMB.

On Section 37, she spearheaded a community conversation about the risks and benefits of using this tool, and secured a review of our Section 37 protocol which was changed to require consultation with the ward councillor to ensure public input on any benefits negotiated in your name. Meed Ward effectively took that issue out of the hands of the Planning department and put it into the hands of the residents – at least in ward 2.

Meed Ward believes “we can reach our provincial growth targets through jobs or residential units” and adds that “we need to focus on jobs downtown, so more of our residents can live and work here.
City Council approved the downtown as one of five hubs in the city for focused economic growth through the Burlington Economic Development Corporation.

There was a time when a much larger bus termial existed 25 yards to the left of this small terminal onm John Street - it was where people met.  There were fewer cars, Burlington didn't have the wealth then that it has now.  We were a smaller city, as much rural as suburban.  The times have changed and transit now needs to change as well.

There was a time when a much larger bus terminal existed 25 yards to the left of this small terminal on John Street – it was where people met. There were fewer cars, Burlington didn’t have the wealth then that it has now. We were a smaller city, as much rural as suburban. The times have changed and transit now needs to change as well.  This part of town is to become a transit hub.

This same Council actually thought about closing the transit station on John Street – a mixed message if there ever was one.

And “mixed message” is the best that can be said of the ongoing efforts to create a downtown with more buzz. Shutting down traffic for car Free Sundays was a nice idea but it didn’t work in ward 2.
Meed Ward wants to see a retail attraction strategy developed.

Right on sister – now get the Burlington Downtown Business Association to do the job they are in place to do and make downtown more people friendly. They could start with a better job of getting the retailers on Brant Street to gussy the place up a bit during the holiday season. Last year’s effort was pathetic.

Meed Ward wants to “explore the feasibility” of a year-round farmer’s market downtown.” Make sure the Rotarians are involved in that discussion. They operate a very healthy market at the Burlington mall and they don’t want to see tax payer dollars taking their customers away from their event.
In the next term of council, Meed Ward said she “will get a report back on the possibility of setting up incubators for start-up businesses, including downtown.”

Hive on Elizabeth

A successful entrepreneur took a risk and opened up what can be called a start-up incubator. All the politicians showed up for the opening night drinks and then forgot about the place.

There is a start-up incubator downtown. Meed Ward attended its flashy opening – and that was it. The city hasn’t given it an inch of support. Meed Ward argues that the city cannot favour a private venture. Rubbish. The HiVe uses a “membership” model and there is no reason why both the BEDC and the city could not have bought a couple of memberships and used them for people who are in the city and need a place to work with their computers.

The downtown merchants have used special shopping bag promotions in the past.  Last summer we all got to see BDBA General Manager Brian Dean in shorts that must have been on sale somewhere.

It is going to take quite a bit more than Red Bag Sales to grow the downtown retail sector.

It would be interesting to see the reports on the meetings between the Downtown Business Association and the Economic Development Corporation – were there any? The EDC doesn’t seem to have figured out how to push the clutch so they can get their act in gear. Don’t hold your breath for those two organizations to come forward with a cohesive well thought out plan. There are people at city hall who have gone grey trying to develop policies and guidelines for something in the way of downtown commercial growth.

The number of new business enterprises is about the same as the number of people who either ran out of money or just plain gave up. Not very promising numbers.

The development community see Meed Ward as dangerous and describe her as such. Former city manager Jeff Fielding once said that if she had a decent handler she would be a very strong Mayor. The idea of Meed Ward being “handled” is one that is not easily embraced.

Meed Ward got herself into office by creating an organization focused on a single issue: Saving our Waterfront. That group had representation in every ward. She showed her community that she knows how to listen and they have embraced her approach.

Meed Ward brings a significantly different approach to municipal politics in Burlington. She has shown a willingness to share the power and authority she has. She gets called a “populist” for that approach.

We were never sure just what was meant by that word “populist”. Meed Ward certainly doesn’t set out to be popular. She has forced her council colleagues to stand for recorded votes; her best evening was when she forced them to stand four times.

Why every vote taken by this Council on everything at both Standing Committees and Council meetings is not recorded boggles the mind. Those men and women are chosen to lead and paid to do so. The public has a right to know what they decide and they have a responsibility to ensure the public knows what they have done.

Ward 2 is the smallest in the city which makes the task of organizing quite a bit easier. There are pockets that are not getting the attention they need. The Queensway community is an example. There is an opportunity to get some playground space for that community

Ghent trees

More than 100 mature trees were cut down for a development that razed 8 homes to put in 58. Bad planning.

Meed Ward has spoken out strongly against the shameful Ghent Street development that took out more than 100 mature trees and then filled the property that had 8 houses with 58 units that are crammed in like sardines. Great for the developer – bad for the city overall. In time the city will come to see that the Ghent development was a serious mistake.

Meed Ward has a true sense of what a public needs to hear from a politician. During her kick off campaign event at the Art Gallery she asked people not for just their votes but for their trust. Politically that was a close to brilliant choice of words.

When she was running for office in 2010 there were a number of former politicians who were prepared to work with her, but she wasn’t prepared to listen to them. In 2010 her objective was to win the seat and position herself for a run against Cam Jackson who she thought was going to win in 2010.

Full disclosure here: I sat in on several of those early campaign meetings and was asked to play a leadership role in her campaign. I decided against playing a role – not because I didn’t think Meed Ward was a winner – it was clear that she had the potential to win. What wasn’t clear then, and still isn’t clear yet, is this: Does Meed Ward have what it takes to serve as the Mayor of Burlington? Can she develop the skills needed to serve as Mayor?

She is not there yet, but that isn’t going to stop her from trying. Could she beat Rick Goldring in 2018 – based on what Goldring did during the 2010-14 term of office her chances of winning in 2018 are better than even.

Meed Ward was more right than most people give her credit for on the pier issue. The city could have settled for much less than it did – but some smart political spin when the settlement was reached, allowed the city to come out looking like the winner.

The public loves the pier - they just don't know yet what the full cost is going to be.  The total cost will be a whopper.  High enough to make political heads roll?  The politicians just might manage to run out the clock.

The  pier was just a part of a longer term development that will next see a 22 storey condominium and an eight story hotel go up and possibly followed by a 28 storey tower as well.-

The pier is just one part of the waterfront. There is a patch of land that is referred to as the “football” that is bound by Lakeshore Road and Old Lakeshore Road and has a reported 18 different property owners.

Football from Norh end - both streets

The west end of the “football”, a patch of land with Lakeshore Road on he north side and Old Lakeshore Road on the south. Begging for intelligent planning.

When the Waterfront Advisory Committee was in place they had plans to hold a design competition for some ideas as to what could be done with that part of the city. It was a good idea then (it was given to them by former Toronto Mayor David Crombie) and it is a good idea now. Meed Ward needs to find a way to move this from an idea into a reality. It would certainly position her very well for a run at the top job in 2018.

While that committee got shut down – they did produce some good information. They identified who the property owners were and what was possible and not possible from a planning perspective. Members of that committee learned all about “top of bank” which limits severely what can be done with the properties that line the lake along Old Lakeshore Road.

SOW images for fottball

Meed Ward used this graphic in her 2010 campaign to show what was possible within the “football”. She never dreamed that a developer would come along and ask to plunk a 28 storey structure across the street.

There are significant limitations as to what can be done – but there is also significant opportunity – but nothing is going to happen without real vision and leadership from city hall. That hasn’t come from the Mayor nor has it come from Meed Ward.

Her very strong position on the possible sale of waterfront land makes it clear how she feels – there is an opportunity to put those feelings behind some concrete action in her second term.

 

 

Return to the Front page

Transit gets discussed at community meeting: Hlusko and Brown didn't like what they heard

News 100 redBy Staff

October 23, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

 

Burlington Transit held a community meeting on proposed changes to Route 6 at Tansley Woods Community Centre Tuesday evening. It was not a smash hit.

Two seasoned observers, one, the best mind on transit matters the city has and Jennifer Hlusko, a current school board trustee running for the ward six council seat who always has a command of the numbers on anything she talks about,  comment on the event.

Hlusko had this to say:

“I attended the City’s presentation last night about the options that City Staff are considering to response to the complaints received from Headon Forest Drive residents. I had attended the Council meetings last May to listen to the residents’ delegations.

Hlusko H&S

Jennifer Hlusko

I was astounded by what I witnessed last night. The City hired a Consultant to handle this transit complaint. Dennis Fletcher, of Steer Davies Gleave, told the audience that over the past few months he has read every email and complaint received from the public. Mr. Fletcher said he was “brought in by the City to be an objective third party”.

In addition to the Consultant, I counted 8 City staff members, 23 residents, 3 Ward 6 Councillor candidates and 1 Ward 6 trustee candidate. Significantly, in the room was Mike Spicer, Director of Burlington Transit. John Duncan, Burlington Transit, was quick to tell me staff weren’t being paid overtime. That wasn’t my objection (although I expect they’ll be given lieu time).

My objection was that the City once again hired a Consultant to handle a file that staff should handle. There was nothing that Mr. Fletcher provided last night that staff couldn’t have handled themselves. Halton District School Board staff frequently lead very contentious public meetings dealing with boundary reviews and school closures.

Mr. Fletcher presented the 3 options (that were already available online), took questions from the audience then invited them to review the charts up close. Neither he nor staff would provide ridership data. To me, that is the crux of the matter. Mr. Fletcher did take the opportunity to diss the school board for downloading the problem of transporting Notre Dame Catholic SS students onto the City of Burlington. How many students ride the bus? If the route is changed to Option #1, has the administration at Notre Dame been asked how that would likely impact ridership? Does the City project that changing to Option #1 will increase ridership by providing direct access to the Supercentre mall, MMRobinson HS, the No Frills plaza, etc.? Can these projections be shared with the public?

Mr. Fletcher said that City Staff will prepare a report that will go to Council in December. If I am elected to be the Ward 6 Councillor, rest assured that I will advocate for data based decisions. Furthermore, that data is shared with the public. I will highlight for the public every time the City considers hiring a Consultant and how much it will cost taxpayers.

I invite residents to attend the repeat performance on Thu Oct 23rd at Tansley Woods. While the notice states the meeting start time is 6pm, the presentation does not begin until 6:30pm.

Here are the three options. Please note they did not include an option along Upland Drive that meets the criteria of providing transit to the Burlington Supercentre mall, but would consider it if the public requested it. Then when an audience member asked if they would consider Deer Run, Mr. Fletcher said, “We are not looking for streets to put a bus on or to take a bus off. We are trying to provide a service to meet GO times.”

The Hlusko comments were published by Hlusko on “blog” she writes almost daily

Doug Brown and Susan Lewis look over a 1982 copy of the city's bus schedule.

Doug Brown and Susan Lewis look over a 1982 copy of the city’s bus schedule.

Doug Brown, chair of Bfast a transit advocacy group based in Burlington made the following comments about the meeting.

Residents do not have the right to remove service from transit users. Not wanting a bus or bus stop near your home is not a reasonable request. It is strange that Council has been so receptive to moving bus stops and bus routes away from complaining homeowners, while showing no interest in the hundreds of complaints from bus users who have lost service during the arbitrary changes resulting from the “Interim Plan” of September 2012, and the wholesale route and schedule changes of November 3, 2013. Does Council have a bias against transit using citizens?

Transit routes should be determined by user needs and through a long-term, comprehensive transit plan. The November 03, 2013 changes did not meet these criteria.

Any changes made to Route 6 should be based on user needs and views – not on unreasonable requests from non-users to remove service.

Further transit changes should be based on a long-term well researched transit plan. Since the 2010-11 Transit Master Plan was aborted by the City in January 2011, there has been no long-term transit plan. The current Transportation Master Plan would have been a good opportunity to develop a long-term integrated transportation plan that would have included a balanced strategy for moving people via car, transit, cycling, or on foot. This opportunity is being missed.

In an interview the day after the meeting Doug Brown said: “To put it mildly, not a good public meeting.
The meeting had a number of non-transit using residents of lower Headon Forest and Pine Meadow. There were some transit users there, even though the Tansley Woods meeting site has hourly bus service – not great accessibility if you can’t drive there.

The meeting began with a talk by a paid facilitator who spent 25 minutes describing the three options that Burlington Transit has developed for the north end of Route 6.

I was the first person to speak from the audience, but was stopped half a minute into my statement by the facilitator and Mike Spicer on the grounds that only comments on the posted three options were allowed. Before being cut-off, I was interrupted several times by some rude residents with comments such as “have you heard the buses.”

I did at least get my first point out that no resident had the right to prevent transit from using their street, and that streets were public right of ways.

Empty buses was the theme of most of the non-transit using residents. Four transit users did speak, but it was very apparent that the NIMBY-minded residents had created a very anti-transit mood. The first transit user to speak felt compelled to apologize for his comments since they contradicted the presented empty bus claims.

Nonetheless, there were several good observations from the few transit users there. One lady recommended going back to the old #6 route which serviced Burlington Mall as well as the Fortinos plaza.

Anyway, back to my comments which I was prevented from delivering. My first point was that residents did not have the right to remove bus stops or buses from their streets. The second issue is that Transit routes should be determined by user needs and through a long-term, comprehensive transit plan. Good transit planning cannot be achieved by the ad hoc and time constrained options presented at the meeting.

My third point was that any changes made to Route 6 should be based on user needs and views – not on unreasonable requests from non-users to remove service. This is a key issue as staff and council seem to pay much more attention to non-transit users views than the needs of transit users.

And my fourth point was that further transit changes should be based on a long-term well researched transit plan. I noted that the City’s 2014 Capital Budget document shows no funding allocation for a transit plan until 2018 meaning that for the next 4 years, any transit measures will be ad hoc and not based on a sound long-term plan.

The three options presented by the City were far too limited as they ignored the central issue of lack of funding and poor service levels (one- hour headways on the north east routes). Staff has apparently ruled out any alternative that would cost more money – which rules out many potential options for better service.

A final comment – I have been attending many public meetings over a very long time. Last night was the first time I was stopped from speaking.

 

 

Return to the Front page

There was a time when it was the Natural Governing Party of Ontario - will it rise again?

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

October 8, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON

 

They used to call the Ontario Progressive Conservatives (PCs) ‘the natural governing party’. Originated with the Upper Canada Family Compact of Sir John A Macdonald, the party was first led by another Macdonald, who was actually a Liberal. The PCs under one label or another have ruled Ontario for over half of the province’s post-confederation history. And interestingly the Party’s official name used to be the Liberal-Conservative Association of Ontario.

christine-elliott-1Next May the Ontario PCs will be choosing a new leader and will get the opportunity to rid themselves of the regressive and divisive politics that characterized much of the past couple decades. Christine Elliott, the widow of former finance minister Jim Flaherty, appears to be the candidate to beat. She’s been down this road before, coming in third place to Tim Hudak in the 2009 leadership fight. Flaherty had been one of the Mike Harris’ radicals though he took on subtler, more folksy and progressive persona as Mr. Harper’s finance minister.

After Flaherty vacated his provincial seat to run federally, Elliott squeaked in to fill her husband’s shoes. She claims to be a moderate, a centrist, and unlike Hudak, was never a foot soldier in the Harris government. In fact she has been known to criticize Harris’ ‘Common Sense Revolution’ and the extreme policies of former leader Tim Hudak, policies which led to the party’s failure in the last provincial election.

There is so much political landscape for a moderate leader of the second party to explore, providing that party is focused on good government and not blinded by ideology. For example we know that balancing the budget is an exercise in offsetting expenditures with revenues. And it follows that if costs can’t be reasonably curtailed, then taxes must increase.

Ontario’s state of transportation infrastructure is in shambles – and especially so in the GTA. Former Premier John Robarts would have intervened long ago to build more public transit, so people could come out of their cars and off the roads. And that would have helped, but this is more complex than just building bus lanes, subways and GO trains – it is about urban sprawl and planning for development in Ontario.

Bill Davis had problems learning how to balance a budget; never really did learn.

Bill Davis had problems learning how to balance a budget; never really did learn.

Former premier Bill Davis implemented Ontario’s land planning process, calling it one of the most advanced anywhere. But for all the praise, it is not much more than a reactive system driven by unsolicited developer proposals. Only the official plans and Greenbelt represent any kind of meaningful planning. And then there is that archaic institution called the Ontario Municipal Board, which exists nowhere else and, which can overrule municipal decisions to the ‘nth’ detail of a developer’s wet dream, thus emasculating council decisions.

Finally the whole municipal system promotes corruption and influence peddling. For example, some councillors accept contributions from land developers, and then are in a position to approve their development plans. And isn’t four years is too long a term for a municipal official between elections? Term limits might encourage greater participation in the municipal process as well as reducing the amount of ‘dead wood’ in council chambers.

Fixing these things is not really a matter of being right-wing or left-wing, and neither is ensuring adequate health care, reliable energy and quality education for the Ontario public. So I welcome a new PC leader who understands that we just want good government. Isn’t that how the PC party started and evolved, at least until it went off the rails. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a choice between two middle-of-the-road parties that mostly believe in the same things for all of us?

An economy in perpetual deficit will ultimately fail to perform at all.And don’t we get tired watching one party come to power and then cancel the programs the former one had brought in, and so on and so forth… Of course there are some universal truths. Wealth doesn’t just trickle down from the rich to the poor, which is one of the reasons we have taxation. An economy in perpetual deficit will ultimately fail to perform at all. And the profit incentive is essential to ensure economic progress.

These principles or philosophies can be located somewhere in the constitutions of both of the two major political parties in Ontario if we look hard enough. This is the heritage of the parties and also their foundation. What’s not there is how they act to achieve these goals: being moderate, reasonable, inclusive and cooperative or conflicting, contrary, exclusive and divisive.

You know, the kind of stuff  Mr. Tory attempted with religious school funding, Mr. Hudak with slashing the civil service and the crippling the unions, and Mr. Harris by dismantling our reliable electrical generation system.Not everybody always votes for the same party, except maybe in Alberta. Some voters might occasionally want to support a second party, if only for a change of blood. But that becomes difficult when partisan ‘policy wonks’ dream up striking new ideological policy planks for the party leader. You know, the kind of stuff  Mr. Tory attempted with religious school funding, Mr. Hudak with slashing the civil service and the crippling the unions, and Mr. Harris by dismantling our reliable electrical generation system.

There are at least four other contenders for the PC leadership so far, and in politics anything is possible. So it may not be Ms. Elliott who wins. Hopefully the new leader will look for inspiration to the glorious days before the 1990’s when the PCs were both conservative and progressive.

Rivers-direct-into-camera1-173x300Ray Rivers writes weekly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking. Rivers was a candidate for provincial office in Burlington where he ran against Cam Jackson in 1995, the year Mike Harris and the Common Sense Revolution swept the province.

Links:
PCs    Christine Elliott   PC Leadership 

Patrick Brown Candidate    Hudak’s Platform    

PC’s Relevant?   Federal Conservative Constitution 

Return to the Front page

Tales from a campaign: Maranatha retirement home, Monster Homes in Shore Acres, the two tower development proposal at Appleby and New Street, and an incumbent who's recommending more high rises in South Burlington; all part of the Gottlob campaign

council 100x100By Carol Gottlob

September 29, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON

Each week, until the ballots are cast on October 27th, we are going to follow the tales and travails of a single candidate.  We have chosen Carol Gottlob, running in ward 4 against a well entrenched incumbent.  Gottlob has no experience in civic government, has never campaigned before.   Following this candidate is not an endorsement; Gottlob will win on her own merit.

Zoning and intensification seem to be the buzz words to get citizens and developers fired up on both sides of the issue. Developers persistently remind us that Burlington has a provincial mandate to meet regarding intensification.

There is a growing Ontario population that needs options for places to live. We get that. The numbers: Current targets call for a minimum number of new housing units to be added to the built-up area between 2015 and 2031 as 8,300.

The intensification mandate also speaks to the intent of building responsibly vis a vis existing mature neighbourhoods, so it’s not a carte blanche to simply build out without thought to consequences of high density population, not to mention affordable housing. Consideration must be given to the impact a larger population would have on public transit, traffic and road infrastructure, and social services.

Appleby Mall rendering 2 structure proposal 16 & 11 floors

Two tower project proposed for Appleby Mall location – 16 and 11 storey structures.

That Official Plan is intended to protect, preserve and help Burlington grow responsibly. I believe one of the issue with our planning is the current zoning by-laws which are too large a zoning designation, too generalized a description and not sufficiently specific to reflect the needs of the prospective sub communities within current designated zones.

These by-laws are typically set as minimums that the developers are pushing and the reality is these minimums today do not accurately reflect these sub-communities’ neighbourhoods, their character, their streetscapes or setbacks. For this reason we are seeing a multitude of sub-communities within these ‘grand zones’ rise up against ‘Monster Home’ and ‘High Rise’ development.

When I am out talking to people I hear their stories and their fears: One example of such a conversation was relating to over building on lot sizes and the impact it has to the neighbourhood character. Potential requests for adjustment to by-law zones could be a change to the side lot setback- in other words how close to the property line a person could build.

Current bylaws stipulate no closer than 3 meters (9.8ft), but the request is to move a new dwelling to 2 meters (6ft). Seems minimal on face value, but when the houses in the immediate vicinity are actually on average 4.5 meters (15ft), the new home being so close to the existing property can be daunting.

The results become very drastic to privacy, notwithstanding the impact of precedence setting when bylaws are ‘excepted’. One can quickly appreciate what a Monster Home’s impact is to a neighbourhood adorned by smaller homes on larger treed lots. It also has long reaching implications of clear cutting in the absence of what one may feel are meaningful tree by-laws.

Clearly the citizens’ needs are not being met with generalized zoning minimums that don’t reflect their sub communities’ character, or their neighbourhood needs for responsible growth. I also don’t believe developers want to lose time and money investing with planners and representation and delays going to Committee of Adjustment hearings every time they want to build; it’s just bad business.

Indian-Point-aerial-view-1024x642

Indian Point underwent a character study that was abandoned. Roseland waiting for its study to be completed.

This past year council has been requested to participate in numerous neighbourhood character studies (Roseland, Indian Point, Shore Acres) in an effort to offset this imbalance in the current Official Plan and subsequent zoning bylaws. Citizens are screaming to address this with expedience but the process has been way too slow, without meaningful output for these neighbourhoods or the developers.

So the two parties continue to be at odds with the absence of reflective bylaws, and some developers leveraging the intensification needs as opportunities to build big, build out and, build often while they can. We need to do better for these communities. Until the rules by which all parties’ interests are best served and enforced with some sense of consistency, we will continue to see these disputes.

Burlington is also suffering a significant imbalance in its Citizen Tax Base. We are currently 75% residential and only 25% commercial. So while we are focused on building out residential to meet this provincial mandate, we are not keeping pace with the city’s need for commercial build out. We are hemorrhaging in our ability to meet the service needs of our community. Our transit services are failing with systemic issues that we are currently only addressing through route changes, or worse, route removals and no Transit Master Plan to resolve any of it. Our main thoroughfares are congested with traffic and getting around town is becoming more and more problematic.

Gottlob on bike looking direct - good smile

Carol Gottlob, an English as a Second language teachers looked at the candidates that had nominated themselves in ward four and came to the conclusion she could do the job as well if not better than any of them – and she had no time for the incumbent. with no experience at city hall, no community experience she filed her papers and is now running hard against a 20 year member of council. Of such races are legends made.

I’m hearing you residents of  ward 4, and I want you to know I’m ready to advocate for you. It’s time for change, time for an Official Plan that better reflects the needs of residents and still satisfies the provincial mandates; a plan to better address the Burlington of today as well as tomorrow, one that should be reflective of the attributes that continue to attract people to our city, and we should be wary of continuing to trade on these attributes for development projects.

We need a Transit Master Plan to address the growing population, the increase in traffic, and ensure we have a strategy to have sufficient support services. We have been developing our Residential Tax Base, but at what cost? Ignoring the rest of the things our city needs to support our growing Burlington?

On the cusp of our build out, one candidate in our ward is suggesting now we should “Build Up”, but how we move forward now matters more than ever if we are to preserve the values of our environment, our character, and our city’s culture. We need projects that make sense for our community, not just today, but long term.

 Links:

Maranatha project has many opposed: council approves the project, Mayor believes it is the right thing to do.

Indian Point character study.

Return to the Front page

Ward six residents take part in a debate - was there a winner? There is certainly a choice.

council 100x100By Walter Byj

September 27, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

 

On Wednesday night the Burlington Gazette held its first all municipal candidates’ debate; it was held in ward six where there will be a total of 10 candidates on the ballot. Two of the ten were absent while one left shortly after the beginning.

Joan Little, a Hamilton Spectator columnist and Kurt Koster, a north Burlington resident and one of the founders of BurlingtonGreen wrote the questions that were put to the panelists.

On the stage were: Angelo Bentivegna, Jim Curran, Pardeep Dosanjh, Jennifer Hlusko, Blair Lancaster, Jivan Sanghera, Ishare Thiara who left early due to illness and Vanessa Warren.

There were about 120 people ence was approximately 100 with many, but not all, being cheerleaders’ for their candidate. Not sure how many minds where changed during the debate.

Debate Bentivegna-Curran -DosanjhAfter opening remarks from the candidates the panelists questioned the candidates on a number of topics allowing each candidate time to response. Unfortunately with the large number of candidates and the limited amount of time, it was difficult to always get detailed responses.

That notwithstanding, the questions and responses did offer an insight into not only the candidates, but why they were running and what their goals would be. Though not a Toronto style debate with name calling and heckling, there were a few zingers thrown.

Why each of the candidates was running was quite apparent throughout the evening, they were not happy with the current councillor. Not returning phone calls or responding to the needs of residents was a major complaint of Lancaster. However, she did respond by pointing to her long list of accomplishments as shown on her brochure and the fact that when addressing issues, one needs finesse and careful negotiations.

The candidates were asked if they would be full time councillors. Most definitely was the response back. They felt that being a councillor was a full time job and that they would treat it as such by being available 24/7. Jennifer Hlusko said the $120,000 Councillors are paid (they are actually paid under $100,000 – half of which comes from the Region and half from the city. They also get pension contributions and health benefits from the city) was far more than she earned as a trustee and she treats that job as full time.

Debate Bentivegna and Sanghera

Angelo Bentivegna chats with Jivan Sanghera after the debate.

Should a Councillor accept political donations and if so, from whom? Recognising that money is essential to run a campaign some stated that there was a difference accepting money from friends and relatives and from developers. Each candidate had a different response to this question.

Hlusko said she has never accepted money in the past and only recently accepted one donation which she says will be her last. Bentivegna, Curran, Dosanjh and Warren have accepted donations from friends and relatives but stressed not from developers. It could be a conflict if the developer addresses council. Sanghera stated he would not accept donations but would rather people donate to the flood relief fund. Only Lancaster had a slightly different approach. She felt that a donation of $750 (which is the maximum that one can donate) is not that great of an amount and would not sway a Councillors opinion. Anyone can donate to a campaign, she said and that developers are important and that we must respect people that donate.

In discussing ward 6, Angelo Bentivegna felt that it was comprised of four distinct areas, Headon Forest, Millcroft, Alton and rural Burlington with each having their particular needs. He felt that the Alton community felt isolated and should be brought into Burlington. Resident Fareem Samji (current Canadian Women’s Long Drive Champion) asked the Councillors how this could be done. This resulted in a variety of answers. Jennifer Hlusko reaches her community via blogs and twitter on a daily basis.

Jim Curran feels that the community is isolated from city hall and is not a geographical problem.
This brought the discussion to Dundas Street and the fear that it is an accident waiting to happen. There is increased pedestrian and car traffic along Dundas Street and although the city can label the area near the high school as a “community safety zone”, this was met with apprehension by many of the Councillors.

 

The John Boich Public School hadn't been built when this picture was taken - but it is very much a part of the community today.  Boich passed away almost two years ago. The intersection will be closed for the weekend of November 9/10

The traffic on Dundas is seen as an accident waiting to happen.  Is there a solution?  The candidates didn’t agree on one.

Speeding appears to be a common occurrence here. There was near consensus that a pedestrian walkway should be constructed to ensure safety for all residents crossing Dundas. They do not want a tragedy to affect change. However, at a cost of $1.2 million, this will not happen in the immediate future. Dundas is a Regional Road; decisions as to what gets done are made at the Regional level.

Bike lanes: everyone is in favour of having more, but what kind and how to pay for them? Do we want bike lanes for the serious commuter or for casual biking? Once that has been determined, how do you pay for them? That is the $2 million question. Lancaster said it would cost $2 million for a small section of road and that we should install the bike lanes when the roads are redone.

Bentivegna wanted additional studies before further action while the balance of the field wanted immediate action.

Sanghera suggested that corporate Burlington pitch in. He asked “why can’t Tim Horton’s, for example, sponsor a bike lane”? This was echoed by the others while Hlusko felt there could be efficiencies at city hall that could result in additional funds for bike lanes.

There was the obligatory discussion of the airpark fiasco with all candidates stressing that this will not be another Buttonville (more than just a recreational airport). None of the candidates would support further expansion. Lancaster suggested that the city hire an aviation consultant whose expertise would guide council with the potential problems that the airpark could present to the city. A rhetorical question by Sanghera “How did the first truckload happen?” received loud applause by the audience.

All candidates were disappointed with transit within ward six as development and transit routes do not appear to be in sync. “We tend to build first and the get transit to serve” said Warren. Lancaster added that the city is making progress in this area – looking at smaller buses. She added that ridership is up by 15%. This was disputed by Sanghera and Bentivegna.

 

Burlington Transit put their most festive bus into the parade.  The language doesn't matter - the message is still the same.

Transit was a debate question: How much and how does it get paid for?

“Transit is calculated by boards and not by ticket sales” said Bentivegna. One ticket sales could easily be two rides. All were concerned that seniors should get the transit that they deserve and with an aging population in ward six, transit should be upgraded to meet these needs by increasing the number of stops and by reducing fares for seniors.

How do we engage younger voters? – a question in any election. The use of social media such as twitter and Facebook was a most common reply while Dosanjh and Curran felt that parents have a certain responsibility in having their children be more politically aware.

The recent ice storm and flooding was covered with all candidates stressing that we need to be more prepared for these types of events and that our infrastructure needs to be upgraded.

Many topics were covered and many words spoken. Reading candidate literature gives one a certain perspective on the candidates and seeing them live in a debate forum adds an additional layer to the individual. They all seem to use the same buzzwords such as concern for seniors and our children but decisions should be done based on a multitude of facts and not emotion.

For example, concern for seniors is important, but we should remember that all seniors are not alike. As recently reported in Macleans magazine, today’s seniors are much more active and wealthier than previous generations. Before we start spending more money on transit for ward 6 seniors, we should totally understand the type of senior in this ward and how many would use increased and cheaper transit.

 

This is the part of the country side the environmentalists want to keep the highway makers away from.

This is the part of Burlington the environmentalists want to keep the highway makers away from.

The building of an additional highway through north Burlington was not discussed yet all candidates were concerned of our current traffic woes both within Burlington and throughout the GTA. All candidates want more employment within Burlington, but with all candidates not wanting to change our current urban and rural boundaries, we face either more dense housing within Burlington or additional traffic into the city.

With a population projection of 6.6 million by 2025 within the GTA how many of these would be travelling the QEW corridor and can we handle the traffic?

Lancaster-with-52-Spitfire

Councillor Lancaster got herself attached to the Air Park in a way that many north Burlington residents did not appreciate.

As the evening concluded, the panelists said that they were impressed with the quality of candidates for ward six. It would be great if we could take a piece of each candidate and have a super Councillor.

Angelo Bentivegna has done his homework but was proposing too many meetings and consultations. Jim Curran seemed to lack a certain dynamism when addressing the audience. Pardeep Dosanjh showed deep support for seniors and children, but did not have a strong platform for all the other issues. Jennifer Hlusko has the political background as a trustee and has a sound knowledge of how government operates. Blair Lancaster, the incumbent, has experience on her side. The main problem here is was she responsive enough to her constituents and can she improve on this in the future.

Jivan Sanghera was a pleasant surprise as he had a strong presence and offered some unique solutions to the needs of ward six. However, name recognition is low within the ward.

Vanessa Warren entered the race initially because of the airpark situation and presents herself well in a public forum. The main question is will she be able to give equal time to the rest of the ward.

Nine people wanting to replace the incumbent was a political message of its own. 

Walter Byj is a frequent contributor to the GazetteByj Walter  H&S

Return to the Front page

Jeff Brooks comes out against a 24 year incumbent; decides to give John Taylor a hard run for his money

council 100x100By Pepper Parr

September 18, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

 

We thought he was new to the game of politics. He didn’t appear to have any local profile and he wrote of being in the trucking industry which suggested he drove a truck.

Brooks H&S crooked smile BEST

Jeff Brooks – his politics will be local – wants more for a ward that many see as “forgotten”.

We were off the mark on both points. Jeff Brooks has a considerable amount of political experience – not at the elected level but he certainly understands the process. This man is no political neophyte and he doesn’t drive a truck either.

He is part of a team that is responsible for the movement of product into a manufacturing plant and getting what is made distributed to customers throughout Canada and the United States. He is a logistics expert; knows how to respond quickly to a crisis – and when you’re moving freight throughout North America – crisis is part of every day.

Brooks has been a Burlingtonian since 1998. He and his wife and their first child landed in Brant Hills and never left. Loves his neighbourhood but described ward 3 as the “forgotten ward” and wants to see new blood and new energy representing the people in the ward.

Brooks realizes he is up against a well-entrenched incumbent and knows he has a battle on his hands. John Taylor, the incumbent has a large following – but Brooks doesn’t think it is as loyal as Taylor believes it is.

He is active at his church, St. John`s Anglican; has coached hockey in the community and taken part in community tournaments.

Brooks was an assistant golf pro for a period of time and then got into speed skating and raced in the Canada Games and made it to the Olympic trials level.

So – why run for office? Brooks was frustrated with there not being at least a challenger for the office of Mayor – he had no intention of even thinking about that job but as he thought about who was representing the ward and talked with his friends and neighbours he came to the conclusion that new blood was needed, more energy and someone with new ideas was necessary. “I didn’t make a last minute decision – I just waited until close to the closing date for nominations before I filed my papers”, said Brooks. He has been working with friends and getting his campaign material and web site ready for the roll out.

Brooks won’t be running a big flashy campaign but he is certain he is going to give Taylor a run for his money – which in the 2010 election amounted to less than $4000.

Ward 3 has more than 300 flood victims but the ward didn’t see all that much of Taylor, said Brooks. “Most of the people I talked to thought the incumbent could have done a lot more.”

Brooks H&S very best smile

Jeff Brooks, long time ward 3 resident takes on a 24 year incumbent.

Brooks was a YPC (Young Progressive Conservative) while at the University of Toronto and worked with the late Larry Grossman and Frank Miller. Brooks has solid contacts within Toronto municipal circles and expects to draw on those contacts for strategic and financial support.

Brooks sees well-kept flower and plant growth along Plains Road and wonders why ward 3 can’t be made more attractive. “There are a lot of opportunities to brighten up parts of Brant and Upper Middle” said Brooks. “A council member with 20 years plus experience at city hall should know who to call and what to do to make our ward look more attractive.

“The bus schedules in this ward don’t really meet the needs of those who have to take public transit” said Brooks and “I’ve not heard anything about transit changes or improvements from the council member”
Brooks would not have gone for building the Performing Arts Centre “but we have it now so let’s make it work.

Should he get to Council who would he look to as a mentor and model himself after? Marianne Meed Ward he responded without pausing for as much as a second.

The incumbent could probably live with that.

Return to the Front page

Refreshing voice from part of Burlington's diverse community decides to run in ward 6 - nine people now going after the Lancaster seat.

council 100x100By Pepper Parr

September 12, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON

 

At one point there were actually eleven candidates for the ward 6 Council seat – which has to be a bit depressing for incumbent Blair Lancaster.

For candidates to come out of the woodwork at this late date in the election process suggests there are a lot of people who are not happy with the representation they are getting and a number of people who think the lady can be beat.

Jivan S

Ward 6 mortgage broker with experience as a youth on a Mayor’s Crime Prevention Committee Jivan Sanghera filed his nomination papers earlier this week.

One of what we believe is now just nine candidates, is Jivan Sanghera, a ward 6 resident who at one point lived on the same street Lancaster lives on.

Sanghera is part of that diverse community that is beginning to become part of the larger community. He was born in Hamilton and is as Canadian as they get; refreshingly so.

Sanghera will be on the ballot. Later today Angela Morgan, Clerk for the city of Burlington and the person responsible for running the administrative side of the election, will close nominations and on Monday release a list of the people whose names will be on the ballot October 27th.

Jivan Sanghera, who has lived in Burlington since the age of six was born in Hamilton. The 37 year old mortgage broker lists the Air Park as the top priority for the ward, followed by the development of the infrastructure. He also has some strong views on the board of education, but realizes they are not a city council issue.
When 17 years old Sanghera was a member of the Mayor’s Crime Prevention committee and says “the city has been good to me and I am at that point in my life where I can participate in civic affairs.

“My goal as Councillor for Ward 6 in Burlington is to ensure that our tax dollars are spent in an efficient manner, to ensure our services are delivered as expected. The public is entitled to wait times that are hours, not months or years. We are entitled to recreational facilities for all who make up the vibrant community we live in. Ward 6 is by far one of the most ethnically diverse areas in the city, and to watch everyone interact and grow together is a beautiful picture, of not only what this city strives to be, but what this country strives to be.

“We must attract businesses, and employers who can assist in building an even better city by contributing well-paying jobs to the local economy.

“We have wonderful facilities in Arts and Culture that I believe are under-utilized. It would be my goal to open the eyes of residents to the wonderful things happening around town.

“Our medical needs are changing” said Sanghera, who wants to work with health care providers to make sure that we are treated quickly, with a standard of care that anyone would expect for their family.
Sanghera is young, exceptionally well spoken; this guy doesn’t hesitate when asked questions; certainly worth listening to. He will be a participant in the September 24th all candidate debate at Hayden High School.

“When elected you won’t wonder where I am. You will see me on the streets, in the parks, at the hockey rinks, sharing this community with you. With me as your Councillor you will be able to communicate issues as small as a full garbage can, and as large as a matter of public safety.”

“As our city continues to grow and change, we must ensure that our infrastructure can handle the additional pressure. We must ensure that our public transit system reflects the needs of commuters and casual users. It must be a real option to get around the city.”

Refreshing indeed – this young man is worth listening to. His campaign web site is HERE

Return to the Front page

Ward 4 race down to two candidates: Dennison will face off against Carol Gottlob

council 100x100By Pepper Parr

September 4, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

 

The election for the ward 4 city council seat took on a bit of a different twist when Dan Davidson announced that he was going to withdraw from the race and support Carol Gottlob.

Alexandra Kubrik has said she too would be withdrawing from the race. Several months ago John Sweeney also said he would not leave his name on the ballot and has since withdrawn. Steve Kempf is not expected to remain on the ballot.

Gottlob smile tighter cropping

Carol Gottlob, English as a Second Language teacher, first time candidate for public office.

That makes ward 4 a two man race (sorry about that Ms Gottlob) with a long term incumbent who knows everything there is to know about how city hall runs. Jack Dennison can certainly get things done.

The issue for many is Dennison’s inability to differentiate between his personal interest and his responsibility to serve as both a steward and a protector of the rules, procedures and bylaws of the city of which he is a council member. During the four years I have observed Jack Dennison I’ve come to the conclusion that he sees the two as much the same.

In his withdrawal statement Dan Davidson said: I would like to make an important announcement in the race for the Ward 4 Burlington City Councillor position. I have decided to withdraw my candidacy for Ward 4 because I have been unable to transition from my current role and responsibilities on a major Government of Canada assignment.

Over the last number of weeks it has become very clear to me that my platform and that of Carol’s are almost identical. I put my full support behind Carol Gottlob in her candidacy for Ward 4.

I feel that it is critical that the people of Ward 4 have a change in leadership that will take them in the direction that community residents would like to go. Someone who deeply listens to residents, who will preserve our communities, who will enhance our recreation, and who will develop Burlington in an evolutionary manner for the years to come.

I believe that Carol has this vision, and is an excellent alternative to the incumbent.

Carol Gottlob’ s challenge now is to take that endorsement along with the support she currently has and build it quickly, very quickly and get her name out in front of people. Her campaign needs a lot of organization but first time candidates have come up the inside before.

It is too early to tell if Gottlob is a real campaigner. She presents well, come across as very decent, likable and prepared to listen and represent the interest of her community. At least now she doesn’t have to fight for votes that three other people wanted.

Dennison LaSalle

Jack Dennison, ward 4 Councillor for more than 20 years.

Dennison has his supporters – it would be stretching things a bit to talk of them as a solid core. The 2010 election was no cake walk for Dennison. If the Roseland Community Organization quietly asks its members to support Gottlob she will take everything south of New Street; Dennison certainly isn’t going to take that part of town.
The real challenge for Gottlob is the stretches of the city between New and Prospect and then between Mainway and Upper Middle Road.
The people south of New Street know what the issue is – those north of New Street are not impacted by the application to sever his Lakeshore Road property to the Committee of Adjustment and, having failed at that level, appealed their decision to the OMB.

It is unfortunate that the OMB hearing on the Committee of Adjustment appeal is not going to be heard before the election. After more than one adjournment the OMB hearing is now scheduled for some time in December.

Return to the Front page

Council report suggests a 4% a year tax increase every year for the next term. Given some of the revenue shortfalls – that could be a wish.

burlbudgetBy Pepper Parr

July 28, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

Once City council had lopped  close to $400,000 off the payroll with the retirement of Kim Phillips and Tom Eichenbaum,  the significant seven did their usual non-debatable statements and then took a six week break – they will be back right after Labour Day.

 

Ward 2 Councillor Meed Ward is looking at the financial side of the city much more these days.  As chair of the Community and Corporate Services committee she shepherds the budget review through the Standing Committee and has brought a much more feisty appraoch to that process.

Ward 2 Councillor Meed Ward is looking at the financial side of the city much more these days. As chair of the Community and Corporate Services committee she shepherds the budget review through the Standing Committee and has brought a much more feisty approach to that process.

Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward said they were going to be away for a “short period of time” and the Mayor reminded Cogeco listeners that the members of council would be doing there door to door thing – given that this is an election year.  The Mayor said you could expect to see him at your door as well – even though he is running against himself – and on that basis a number of people think he could lose.

 

Director of Finance Joan Ford does a great job of providing the data ad her department does a good job of collecting the taxes as well.  It's the spending side that is causing the long term financial stress.  Ms Ford doesn't do the spending.

Director of Finance Joan Ford does a great job of providing the data and her department does a good job of collecting the taxes as well. It’s the spending side that is causing the long term financial stress. Ms Ford doesn’t do the spending.

In approving the reports from the Standing Committee on Community Services there was mention of a report that was “received as information only” in which the Finance department set out what the tax hit for 2015 might be.  There was no discussion about this at Council – but it’s something you might want to print out and stick under their noses when they come calling for your support.

In 2010 Council set the budget for 2011 and came up with a 0% increase, due in large measure to the first time citizens saw Councillor Sharman’s “bull in the china” shop approach to getting what he wanted.  At the beginning of the term that is coming to an end, Mayor Goldring spoke of a 10% increase over the four year term.  They came close. You won’t be so lucky in the next term – the projection is for a 4% increase each year for the four years.

Here is how Finance explained it all.  Council was being given the parameters on which staff will prepare the 2015 budget. The framework presented in the report outlined principles that have been recognized by Council as important policy decisions, as well as highlighting  budget drivers that will impact the 2015 budget.

By way of background, in November of 2012 Council approved a Long Term Financial Plan which outlined strategic objectives to ensure financial sustainability and responsible financial management; that is what Finance will be working from as they develop the 2015 budget.

On March 4, 2014, Council received the 20-Year Simulation of Forecasted Budget Drivers, which provided “a high level overview of major budget drivers and expected future tax rate impacts”. Inherent in the annual operating budget process are the normal pressures of inflation, growth, resources and fluctuating revenues, compounded by infrastructure renewal costs. This forecast as presented continues to recognize the anticipated drivers for the 2015 budget year resulting in;

 2.1% increase to maintain existing services

0.6% to address corporate pressures

1.3% to address increased infrastructure funding

 The above brings the forecasted increase to 4%.”

 

wer

The significant seven – how many of the rascals will get re-elected. The Mayor appears to be on the way to acclamation, but there are at least three council members who are at some risk risk.

Finance was good enough to point out that this is an election year, and staff want to ensure that the framework includes the important policy decisions of this council while not pre-supposing any budget decisions for the incoming council.  What they are saying is that this bunch of rascals had a plan but the next bunch of rascals don’t have to live with it.

The 2015 budget will ensure the following;

  • Base budget tax rate changes are aligned closely with inflation, represented by the three year annual rolling average of the Consumer Price Index (Toronto). The 2011-2013 annual CPI average was 1.92%
  • Ensure debt in the capital budget is used in a fiscally responsible manner, following the parameters in the city’s debt policy
  • Provisions to reserves are made to ensure adequate cash flow to meet defined current and future needs
  • Continued emphasis on moving forward with infrastructure renewal projects and maintain approved levies dedicated to reduce the infrastructure deficit, which is short something around $49 million
  • Transition to service based budgeting and recognize value for services through the reporting of public services.

The following are highlights of the key budget drivers as identified in the 20-year simulation presented in March:

Maintain current service levels (That shouldn’t be seen as a given.)

Address areas for revenue increases/ shortfalls ICI revenue has been consistently short, a negative number in 2013 and probably another negative for 2014 when all the numbers are in.

Match growth-related cost impacts with growth revenue (assessment growth)

Manage labour costs within a workforce planning strategy

No additional Joseph Brant Hospital levy for 2015 and beyond

Dedicated infrastructure renewal levy of 1.25% as per the approved asset management funding plan

There are many initiatives currently underway that will impact the presentation of the 2015 budget.  The City continues its transition to a service-based organization with a commitment to performance measurement, continuous improvement and accountability; but this is virgin territory for Burlington – expect some major hick-ups on this one.

The service portfolio currently has a total of 50 services (28 public services); this number may change as the service list is refined. Business plans summarizing the service strategy, existing service delivery, performance measures, and resources required to deliver the service at current service levels are in the review process. The 2015 current budget will be presented in both a service-based format and the traditional departmental-based format to ease the transition to a new budget presentation; that translates into close to two budgets which ramps up the staff time.

Staff continue to look for ways to improve the presentation for  the capital budget and forecast. A corporate team is currently underway developing changes to the capital budget to bring the focus to infrastructure renewal projects and growth projects. The capital budget will remain a 10-year program, broken down by asset categories. However, projects that are outside the scope of infrastructure renewal or the Development Charge program (growth) will be identified separately for Council’s consideration during the budget review process.

 

Sealing cracks on roads is one of the preventive maintenance tools before a road has to be rebuilt.  Shave and pave has proven to be money well spent - and we are spending a lot of money on this tool.

Sealing cracks on roads is one of the preventive maintenance tools before a road has to be rebuilt. Shave and pave has proven to be money well spent – and we are spending a lot of money on this tool.

This Council has been proactive in addressing the city’s infrastructure gap, over this council term. Most recently, council approved the asset management financing plan, a balanced approach to address renewal needs over the next 20 years. Council has identified infrastructure renewal as a key priority, through the approval of dedicated infrastructure levies and continued emphasis on infrastructure projects in the capital budget.

Below is a brief timeline of the 2015 budget process. -one might add there is a magic wand in there as well.  Somewhere in this time frame the city will be interviewing and hiring a new city manager who will undoubtedly want to put his finger prints on the budget documents.

Current and Capital budget overview – January 2015

Council Information Session – January 2015

Public Engagement – February 2015

Budget review – February 2015

Council budget approval – March 2015

Budget review and approval cannot occur until the New Year, after the new council has been inaugurated.  Council also has to realize that municipal funding pressures in the provincial budget may impact Burlington. The province has a huge deficit it wants to reduce by 2017 – and that is not going to be easy.  There is significant pressure on the province by the credit rating agencies (their ratings determine the interest rate the province has to pay) to reduce spending – some of those reductions might come out the hides of the municipal sector.

No one expects the near municipal rape of the Harris government, but those spending cuts have to come from somewhere.

Add to that the cost of the Official Plan and the costs it might create for the city.  The transportation master plan (get transit in there as well) and whatever the new council decides it wants in its Strategic Plan; none of these are likely to reduce costs

Don’t forget the expanded winter control service to parking lay-bys and plowing links to primary sidewalks. Then there is the Ontario One Call service that requires all Ontario municipalities to join On1Call by June 19, 2014.  Roads and Parks Maintenance annualized the cost to the city at $76,370 in 2015 plus a 25% contingency.

That comes perilously close to a $100,000 chunk out of the corporate apple and the city couldn’t register as much as a word in the way of complaint.

Robertson Cathy

Cathy Robertson has the unenviable task of knowing just when to get the snow plows out on the road and organizing her fleet so that the snow is plowed before people head for work. The Windrow in the drive way – sorry about that.

The Burlington Economic Development Corporation managed to spend tens of thousands on report after report – now they will want funds to get into the game of actually doing some economic development.  During the lead up to the creation of the reformed EDC all kinds of expensive ideas were flying around the room.  This was an opportunity for the private sector to do what they like to do – take risks – with public money.

The Finance department adds that there might be upcoming reports from other sectors not yet brought to Council.

Mention was made of the opportunity to create a new strategic plan for 2015 and beyond, that can enable larger budget changes such as multi-year budgeting, which could shorten the review period and resource requirements, while maintaining the objectives of the Long Term Financial Plan.

That’s a little like the $60 million obligation the city took on to pay for the part of the Joseph Brant Hospital the city said we had to pay for – the requirement got laced into the budget and the taxpayers saw a new line on their tax bill.  Don’t expect that cash grab to disappear once the $60 million has been collected.

Income tax was introduced to Canada as a First World War measure – that one is still with us.  It is always wiser to have bureaucrats justify what they ask for every year – keeps them on their toes.

16% for the next four years eh! – and that’s the out of the gate number.  Will Councillor Sharman manage to get himself re-elected and do his 0% increase for 2015 the way he did in 2011?  He will want to be Mayor after that.

 

 

Return to the Front page

Burlington’s air park will make it to the big screen tonight on CBC; pop corn parties being held at numerous locations to mark the ocasion.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

June 10, 10, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

It could not have come at a better time for the north Burlington residents who are looking forward to a second day in court where they hope what they see as an errant, illegal land fill operation finally have the boots put to it.

The Gazette has followed this story since we first got word of the truck rumbling up and down Appleby Line with landfill from quite where no one knew.

Three notices of libel during which we were given an opportunity to retract what we had published, notices to two other north Burlington residents as well and then finally a Statement of Claim from the  Burlington Air Park Inc., that we had damaged their reputations and needed to be punished to the tune of $100,000 by way of exemplary damages,  And this isn`t over yet.

CBC National News has picked up the story which will broadcast this evening on the national network.  The following is a transcript of what the CBC will run.

Rural Ontario residents fear contents of soil dumped near their properties

Anger over some landowners accepting millions of dollars worth of soil dug up in Toronto

Jun 10, 2014 11:43 AM ET

Marnie Luke, CBC News

Residents living in rural communities near Toronto are demanding to know what’s in the thousands of truckloads of soil being dumped on property near them. 

Heavy equipment - View from Kitchen window June 15, 2013Barbara Sheldon’s farmland is located on the edge of Burlington, Ont., and is now walled in by a three-storey berm of dirt brought in by her neighbour, who owns the small  Burlington Executive Airport next door.

She is worried about what might be in the muddy mix.

“We’re sitting ducks waiting for the contaminants to leach,” she said.

Sheldon told CBC’s Diana Swain that anyone in the country could face the same problem.

“They could lose everything. That is what happened to me. I lost everything,” she said.

“I’ve lost my property value. For five years I’ve lost the use of my land, I’ve lost the use of my home. I mean, from sun up to sun down and sometimes at night and on weekends we’re talking back-up beepers, we’re talking about dump trucks surrounding me,” Sheldon said.

Need for places to dump dirt will increase

Rural residents are angry that some landowners are taking in millions of dollars worth of soil dug up from Toronto-area construction sites with little oversight. The City of Toronto estimates nearly four million cubic metres of soil will be dug up in the next 10 years for Toronto water and transit projects alone.

With more and more soil being displaced to make room for condos, transit, Pan Am Games venues and other urban development projects, the need for places to dump that dirt is only going to increase.  

Some municipalities have bylaws about using private property for landfill, but rules around soil testing and the amount of dirt that can be dumped are muddy.  

Ontario environmental commissioner Gord Miller said it’s time for tougher rules as well as clarification on who has jurisdiction.

“We don’t have security on piles, on areas where we know there is contaminated soil … and it can be removed and sort of mixed in and how would we know? So there is legitimate concern when large volumes of soil are being deposited in rural areas with very little checking,” he said.

‘Disingenuously raising concerns’

Sheldon said every level of government she contacted for help since the dumping began five years ago said it wasn’t their responsibility.

Sheldon interview scene 1Court documents obtained by CBC News show Vince Rossi, owner of the Burlington Executive Airport, earned more than $855,000 accepting fill at the Burlington airport between the years 2011 to 2013.

In a statement to CBC News, Rossi accused his neighbours of “disingenuously raising environmental concerns.”

Rossi said the Ministry of the Environment has not found a problem with the fill he is using.

He also said that municipal bylaws don’t apply to his property.

“As for the issue of jurisdiction, our view is that only Transport Canada has a say over the nation’s airports,” he wrote.

The City of Burlington took the airport to court last year and got the dumping stopped. An appeal of that decision will be heard on June 11.

Similar disputes are playing out in other rural communities, like New Tecumseth in Simcoe County, which sits on the environmentally protected Oak Ridges Moraine about an hour north of Toronto.

A caravan of trucks began dumping dirt on the local air strip there four years ago, and concerned residents say they haven’t been able to get answers about what’s in the soil or the potential impact to well water.

Voluntary guidelines

Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment issued voluntary industry guidelines last year on testing and disposing of soil. But a report by the City of Toronto’s chief planner raises concerns that the guidelines do not deal with excess soil moved across jurisdictional boundaries.

“As a result, there continues to be a policy and regulatory gap in this area,” the report says.

Concerned citizens and environmental groups have formed the Ontario Soil Regulation Task Force, and are calling on the province to create an enforceable Clean Soil Act.

“That fill has to go somewhere. Somebody’s going to find a place for it, because it’s got money attached to it,” Sheldon said. “Until that money is removed from the fill, they should charge people. You want to put it here? OK, you pay us, developers. The whole system’s broken from the start.” 

Miller, Ontario’s environmental commissioner, said to tackle the problem, you have to start at the source.

“The people who dig the holes should be responsible cradle to grave to making sure that soil is not only going somewhere where it’s safe, but somewhere where it’s wanted, and deposited in a manner that’s acceptable to the receiving municipality and the local residents,” Miller said.

The CBC is understood to be planning a series of television features on the problem.  The natives north of Dundas will be beating their drums wildly tonight as they prepare for the appeal hearing tomorrow.

 

Return to the Front page

If James Smith wins the ward 5 council seat – will transit have traction at city hall?

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

April 14, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

This isn’t the first run up the hill for James Smith, he has run for the ward 5 council seat before and did credibly well in 2010.  Federal liberal in 1988

For James the issues in the 2014 election are personal – he is passionate about the need for public transit, worked himself ragged to get the Freeman Station onto a site where work at restoring the structure could begin.  In his campaign material Smith says:  “As president of the Friends of Freeman Station I learned some very valuable lessons about consensus building and finding solutions to problems city council couldn’t or didn’t want to tackle.”

James Smith has been around politics a large part of his life.  His first political encounter was back in 1968 – during the days when Paul Hellyer, was a force – he became the Minister of Defence and merged the armed forces putting them all in the same colour of uniform.

Smith hung around political offices and did all the usual stuff young people do in elections.  He did what that generation did and took the “trip to Europe” with some friends.  Met a woman who had a cousin and married the cousin – they’ve been married 34 years and have two grown children.

Smith worked for Sears in western Canada for nine years as a store planner; they sent him east where he worked in Scarborough.  The work was decent but Scarborough wasn’t for him.  They liked the High Park area but prices weren’t within their budget. “We kept moving west, found Burlington and have been here ever since” is the way Smith describes his introduction to the city.

FOFS-JV-signing-ALL-1024x522

James Smith, second from left, at the signing of the Joint Venture with the city to move and refurbish the Freeman Station.

There was a family to be raised and the Harris government took over the province – not much room for Liberals in those days.  Smith hunkered down and raised his children.  Smith is a former Director of the  Burlington Arts Centre; a past member of Burlington’s Official Plan citizens advisory committee and a founding member of the Burlington Conserver Society – the group that saved the Sheldon Creek Woodlot

Smith was a member of the Shaping Burlington Committee – they advocated for the adoption of the City of Burlington Engagement Charter.  Council accepted the Shape Burlington recommendation but the public hasn’t seen much of the concept since then.

Smith, whose father was a broadcaster is the co-host of Transit Talk on Usual Sources Radio CFMU-FM 93.3  In 2013 Smith established the Save Skyway Arena Campaign and stopped the closure of Skyway Arena.

He was host and moderator of BFAST’s (Burlington for Accessible Sustainable Transit)  Town Hall meeting in June 2012; an event that brought some of the best minds in transit in the province to Burlington.  Smith is the     Burlington Representative on the GTA West MOVE Task Force and co-author of the soon to be released MOVE Task Force Report

BFAST takes credit for saving the John Street Bus Terminal.

An finally, Smith is a founder (one of several) and Past President of The Friends of Freeman Station; he has been tireless in finding a home for the station and leading a sound board and team of volunteers that will soon be out refurbishing the station that now sits on Fairview – next to the fire station.

Smith is an active Catholic as well.

The campaign to win ward 5 this time around is based on three premises: Planning, Moving and Prosperity.  What the public has seen from Smith is a consistent approach to the way we move people around.  He argues that grid lock, the increasing cost of gas, an aging population that will not be able to drive a car at some point and the impact of carbon on the environment make it vital that the city look at different forms of public transit.

GO works well and the service is now more frequent which keeps cars off the QEW.  Smith tends to focus on local transit and our ability to get from community to community. Getting Burlingtonians out of their cars is a little like spitting into the wind.  Car culture dominates and Smith doesn’t believe this council and particularly the member for ward 5 really understand transit.  Their arguments tend to focus on the cost to the city while James believes cost is certainly a concern but that there is a bigger concern that isn’t being seen.  Were Smith to be elected there will be different conversations around the council chamber horseshoe.

James Smith believes that the city needs to do a better job of planning.  He is pretty blunt and direct when he says: “Burlington has no green fields left to pave.”

Urban sprawl, he points out,   costs us all in additional services and hidden costs. He then adds that the only thing people seem to hate more than Sprawl is Intensification.  Smith fully understands the province’s “Places to Grow” legislation and the city’s official plan – not something that can be said for every member of the current council.

Smith makes the uncomfortable point that “with no more room to build, the fact we have built to the edge of our urban boundary means intensification is coming.  We have to be ready for and understand how to make the changes we want to see in our communities.”  Not exactly great vote getters but they do reflect the reality Burlington faces.

Smith has serious issues with a number of the decisions made by the current council and while he earns a very good living as an architectural technologist – he took time last December to hunker down with family and friends and decide if he could win an election and if he felt he could – mount a campaign and work at it full time.

What the public often does not realize is that the people who run for office do so at their expense.  They have to put quite a bit of their own money into the campaign and they have to give up on their gainful employment and go door to door in the ward listening to votes and seeking their support.

Smith has been delegating to city council for years – he takes on an issue and will work his way through the work plan and get it done.

He’s Irish and while the temper is seldom seen, it is nevertheless there and on an unfortunate occasion he set aside the words he had prepared and asked council if they “were on coke” – they were going through a transit report that should have been before council several weeks before.  Smith just lost it.

How we get around has been an overriding issue for Smith.  He believes we have to work with other governments and agencies to develop an action plan to build a CN grade separation on Burloak before 2020.  Smith is adamant – we have to use the Gas Tax monies we get for transit; that is what the funds were intended for.  Smith and his Bfast colleagues get close to apoplectic when they see gas tax monies being spent on roads.

While there has been a lot of talk about working with employers to put active transportation plans in place – there hasn’t been much actually implemented.

Smith wants to re-allocate resources and review transportation budgets for waste and duplication with the Region of Halton and plan for a Transit system people will use and can rely on, with a City commitment to funding transit at least to the level of the GTA average

If James Smith makes it to city hall expect him to press hard for a commitment to work with Oakville, Waterdown and the province to plan and build the Dundas BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) called for in Metrolinx’s BIG Move.  Should he end up with more votes than anyone else in ward 5, the city will finally have a true transit advocate on council.

Burlington now has Prosperity Corridors.  Smith isn’t overly impressed with the public relations language and points out that with a fixed urban boundary the city has to look for creative new ways to attract new development, industry and residents.  He seems to have forgotten that the city has an Economic Development Corporation, albeit one that hasn’t done very much and currently has its head buried in a governance exercise.  Smith would like to establish a Task Force on unlocking the potential of Employment Lands.  He will be walking into a hornets nest on that one.  He wants to involve residents in the earliest phases of planning to develop community supported new development.  The BEDC has yet to ever invite the public into its deliberations – anything Smith can do to open up that operation will be welcome news and certainly in line with the objects of the Community Engagement Charter that can’t seem to get outside the doors of city hall.

Smith wants mixed use for all Employment Lands to at least be considered and to insist on a residential component for all retail re-development – he would like to add in a residential and an affordability component as well.

So who is this guy?  Irish that’s for sure.  A citizen who has paid his dues and shown that he can get things done.  City council basically threw its hands in the air with the Freeman Station – Smith was part of a team that saved the station so that citizens could refurbish it.

In 2010 there were eight candidates running for the council seat.  Paul Sharman won that contest after deciding that he wouldn’t run for Mayor – he filed nomination papers for that job first. 

The candidates were: Serge BERALDO, Rick GOLDRING, Paul KESELMAN, Dave KUMAR, Anne MARSDEN, Cal MILLAR, Peggy RUSSELL, Paul SHARMAN and James SMITH.  Goldring dropped out as a ward council candidate and ran for Mayor.

David Kumar went on to his heaven by getting appointed to the Committee of Adjustment, Cal Millar went on to become president of the federal Conservative Party association in Burlington.

While Sharman has yet to file his nomination papers for re-election in ward 5 (maybe he is going to file to run for the office of Mayor and mean it this time?) the race is currently between Ian Simpson and James Smith. 

Background links and related stories:

Smith loses it.

Return to the Front page