She took a principled stand and they short her down. Bang, bang – they shot her down.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  March 1, 2012  She did her best.  She stood up and took a stand.  She was brave.

Alas, her fellow Council members didn’t have quite the same degree of courage and they all sat on their hands when it came to a vote on whether or not the city should continue paying for employee parking.

This is not a small matter – the city pays out $184,844 annually for employee parking and Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward felt this was a perk that was no longer justified and should be done away with.  Other members talked around the issue but none came right out and said they thought city staff should get their parking paid for.  The city provides discounts on bus passes but there is apparently a very small uptake on that offer.  Why take the bus when the city is going to pay your parking.

She was never shy about speaking up and at a Council Budget committee she certainly spoke out about the city paying for employee parking. But every other council member sat on their hands when it came to a vote.

For a city that wants to increase transit use – paying parking for staff that could take the bus to work seems to be a policy that isn’t being lived up to by city management.

There are some situations where very senior people should get their parking paid for – that`s consistent with what is done in the private sector.  It should be noted though that none of the people at the Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital get there parking paid for.  That they must pay their own parking is written right into their employment contracts.

Meed Ward is a trooper if she is anything. This wasn’t the only time that she was the owner of the only hand that went up in the air when the vote was called.

She couldn’t get any support on a vote to cancel the free parking so she put forward another motion to have the perk phased out over a three year period.  No takers on that one either.

Meed Ward made three points as she argued for ending the free parking for staff..  There was a matter of principle.  There is no free parking for anyone else.  You pay to park on the streets or the city parking lots and while you don`t pay to park at the malls, the cost of that parking space is built into the rental structure meetings pay for retail space at the malls.  Meed Ward did not think staff should be putting forward expense items that were advantageous to them.  When staff put a line item in the budget to cover parking – they are in effect giving themselves a direct benefit – which comes in at $184,000 plus annually.

Her second point was that Council was expected to show leadership and all the talk of keeping tax increases low is a bit of a sham when the city had an opportunity to reduce the expenses by $184,000 plus – just like that.

Her third arguing point was that paying for staff parking and then fining people who may have spent a little longer than they expected in a store to come out and find they have a ticket on their car – well she thought that was a bit  much.

On a personal note – the Council committee that was debating the budget had announced that they would commence at 9:30 am and break at 12:30 pm – and so I put the $4.50 needed in the parking meter.  They broke for five minutes at 12:10 and then went back into session and stayed there till 1:30 pm.  Had the meter man been in the parking lot I use I would have been looking at a $20.00 parking ticket so that I could sit in the Council chambers to hear a debate about staff getting free parking.

Council members get a free parking spot right outside city hall – fair enough.  They are in and out frequently and they do work long hours.  And they are the Board of Directors – they get a perk.  When this benefit was conferred on Meed Ward she declined and my understanding is that she pays for her parking spot.  Good on you Ms Meed Ward, there are times when you drive people bananas with some of the stuff you do at Council but on this one you are right on principle and you were right on leadership as well as customer service.

Can that populist principled approach get you elected as Mayor?   That’s a different issue.



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1 comment to She took a principled stand and they short her down. Bang, bang – they shot her down.

  • The bald fella across the street

    Hi Pepper,
    A fine bit of reading to kick off the morning! The piece made me laugh, and also raises a flag to extent of the trough feeding going on by some at city hall. A pity the folks on council didn’t take the high road and try to save a few of the taxpayers’ bucks.