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Rare Saturday council meeting - long on conversation - no decisions

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

April 19th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

state of emergency logoIt was a City Council meeting called by the Mayor for 10 am on a Saturday morning.  The first Saturday morning Council meeting  this reporter recalls in the ten years I have been covering council.

There were no desperate holiday weekend meetings in 2014 the parts of the city were flooded.

That State of Emergency means that an Emergency Control Group (ECG) runs the city but must defer to Council when there is a change to the level of service delivery or when there is a need for additional funds that were not part of the budget Council has approved.

mmw Apr 17

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward

There was no agenda, other than the audio visual technician there was no one in the Council Chamber.  The Mayor, members of Council and city staff taking part were all working from their homes.

There was one item to be considered and that had to do with parking in the areas around the public parks and the use of public washrooms.

Three hours after the Mayor called the meeting to order and confirmed that there was a quorum they adjourned with the “matter to be considered” referred to a scheduled city council meeting to take place on Tuesday evening.

Mayor Meed Ward explained that the meeting was critical and was called because of the impact provincial orders were having on the city’s responsibility to provide services.

Executive Director Sheila Jones, who oversees any changes that are made to the level of service delivery, set out what the issues were and expecting that Council would go along with the following:

motion

 

The City was working on the understanding that the province had said parks were to be closed.  The province later modified that decision but council didn’t know this while it was meeting on Saturday.

People want and need to get out side for exercise and do something for their mental health.  Burlington has 130 parks – Council wants people to walk to the local park and have the children play in a local park rather than have everyone heading for the Beachway or Spencer Smith Park.

The people putting together a ACultural Action Plan for the city went to the community and asked people: What is culture to you and where do you look for it in Burlington. The group took a booth at the Children's Festival and had children make their mark on a choice list. Interesting approach.

Parents are going to want to be outside when the weather gets warmer.

Everyone, well almost everyone, understands that we are in a crisis – and yet for the people of  Burlington we are not seeing a crisis.  We don’t have the concentrations of populations that exist in the Peel Region, Brantford and Toronto.

The Parks and Recreation people are doing an admirable job at reacting to an ever-changing scenario.  They need time to make the changes and at the same time coping with a public that wants their children to be able to play out doors.

The provincial decision to forbid golf courses to operate had the parks people scrambling to get concrete barriers in place to prevent people from getting on the gold courses –  the Tayandaga course was sold out for Saturday.

The numbers are daunting – 1200 case levels being reported at the end of February – 4800 0n Saturday and 7500 at best in six weeks.

When the province makes  policy decisions – they are followed by very detailed regulations.  On Saturday all the city had were draft regulations – which City Solicitor Nancy Shea Nicol explained do get changed.

As a process that was understandable – the problem for senior staff was – how do we deal with real situations that are going to have to deal wit the next day.

City manager Tim Commisso said that city park use is going to have to be regulated adding that there is “no possible way to enforce rules in recreational parks”.  The focus will be on educating people.

Did he make it? If you were one of many at the Norton Skateboard PArk on Saturday you would have seen some impressive acrobatiocs going on.

Skate Park in the Alton community will be closed.

Director of Parks and Recreation Chris Glenn had to close down skate board facilities, basket ball courts and tennis courts.  And trying to figure out if the leash free parks could be kept open.

Could picnic tables be used, boats can apparently be put in the water but people couldn’t take the boats out on the water – figure that one out!

Community gardens were thought to be Ok.

The recreational space at schools is a school responsibility.

The Bylaw enforcement people have seen a 200% rise in complaints – their challenge is to keep problems from becoming confrontational.

The city is having some difficulty with the form of communication with the Public Health Unit.  Local doctors are giving advice that the city likes but would like to see that advice confirmed by the Public Health people.  Council Sharman has the Mayor talking to the doctors at Joseph Brant asking if they would put their advice in writing.

Mayor Meed Ward said she was just not hearing from the Health people at the Region.

Commisso Apr 17

City manager Tim Commisso – the public needs directions.

City Manager Commisso said the “public is waiting to be told and if the are not told what they can do  – they will do what they think is best for them if they do not get clear instructions from the elected leadership”.

The pressure is being felt by everyone at every level.

There were a lot of comments – but the issue in front of Staff was what do we do with public washrooms and parking lots at the public parks.  Of the 130 parks – 35 have parking lots.  Do we board up those parking lots and do we open the public washrooms?

washrooms

Park use – how to manage a situation where the rules are not clear.

If the decision is to implement the closure of parks (which is now not going to happen) – the province changed their minds) there was a priority list created.

park parking lots

Council agreed that there were risks in deferring a decision to Tuesday – but there just wasn’t enough information – and the concern was that the province would change some of the decisions they had made.

Commisso said the “fear is that the parks situation will only get busier and that means the risks will get higher making it difficult to manage when the weather gets warmer.”

After a two hour and fifty minute meeting the decision was to:

Refer the closure of the park parking lots and park washrooms to the Director of Roads, Parks and Forestry and the Director of Recreation, Community and Culture to report back to the April 20, 2021 council meeting with a recommendation.

Before getting away Sheila Jones reminded Council that street parking rules have been lifted (for now) and transit has not changed.

parking and transit

These decisions get recommended by the city leadership team and approved by the Emergency Coordinating Group who then inform council

With that the the Mayor moved into an Emergency Control Group meeting – the rest waived their hands for the camera and went back to figuring our what had actually been achieved.

bye wavw Apr 17

Waving goodbye after a three hour meeting.

Stay tuned

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1 comment to Rare Saturday council meeting – long on conversation – no decisions

  • Howard

    What a waste of time. The ECG governs the services not council although many of them wanted to be when it was created. The intent of the lockdown is to limit the migration of people. Foot traffic to parks is where we were last May. That is what is expected of its citizens. Organized baseball games is not cool. Opening Tyandaga to its members and walk-ons (non-residents) is not what the province wants. Lastly, if you had half a brain would you let your child use a public washroom that may get cleaned once every 12 hours?