Strategic plan supporter gives the city a thumbs up for a document that took nine months to create. He no hopes that the arts get serious funding going forward.

element_strategic_planBy Pepper Parr

March 21, 2016


Getting it - yellowIt was one of those déjà vu evenings for Trevor Copp as he stood at the podium during a Corporate and community Affairs Standing Committee meetings – this time, at least to some degree – thanking the city for beginning to come around to his point – first made about five years ago – that artists were beginning to be able to work in the city they live in.


Trevor Copp in conversation with Angela Paparizo, the city’s cultural manager.

Copp’s was delegating at the meeting which was hearing comments on the close to final draft of the 25 year Strategic Plan. The event was part love in and part dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s while council and staff commented on just how involved citizens had been in creating the document.

It isn’t an overly long document – 30 some odd pages and there isn’t much in the way of inspiring language in it – but it is at least understandable.

Frank McKeough, former Chief of Staff to MAyor Rick Goldring asked about how politicians can handle complex issues when voters tend not to be informed and don't have the background needed to arrive at decisions.

Frank McKeown, former Chief of Staff to Mayor Rick Goldring and now the Executive Director of the Economic Development Corporation supports the Strategic Pan – now wants th city to deliver on the document.

Frank McKeown, executive director of the Economic Development Corporation added that it was a solid plan – the challenge now was to executive on that plan – and that is the real challenge.

City manager James Ridge, sounding like an author on a promotional tour, threw out the phrase “blue print for city building” as if it was the title of a book and he wanted to be certain that people go it. We counted five occasion when the phrase was inserted into his comments.

Ridge set out some of the challenges the city faces and identified a number of places where things are going to get done differently. The Gazette comments on the Ridge remarks elsewhere.

Throughout the creation of the Strategic Plan – and it was a creation – they took more than nine months to complete the document – we don’t know the total cost yet – the word culture was sprinkled rough numerous pages.

Jim Riley, part of the arts collective in Burlington, made the point that the word art had been left out – and while it may seem petty, Riley had a point. “The arts change culture” he said. Most of council got his point which is something that would not have happened five years ago.

Riley went on to point to definitions of culture in both a UNESCO document and a Ministry of Culture document.

Many speak of the role the arts plays in local economies –and city manager Ridge tends to portray himself as “arts sensitive” – just how sensitive will become evident when we see how much he invests in the art community.

The city puts just shy of a million dollars into the Performing arts Centre and another just shy of a million into the Art Gallery of Burlington – but not much of that money finds it way into the pockets of the artists.

The city does have a cultural manager who has an assistant – but the city seems to have said that it isn’t going to put much in the way of dollars into the Culture Days event that takes place each fall.

Strategic Plan Workbook

What has traditionally been a document to guide a city council during its term of office – the 2015 Strategic Plan was changed to a long term vision document that covers a 25 year time frame.

Of all the issues that got covered during the debate Monday evening – culture got the most air time – but there wasn’t a word from either the Executive Directors of the Performing Arts Centre or the Art Gallery.

Trevor Copp might have to come back to a council meeting and prod a little more. Copp’s did say that he felt there was very good public participation in the creation of the plan

“You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing a notice of a public meeting about the Strategic Plan” he said.

There was far more public discussion about this plan than any other document the city has developed. Michelle Dwyer, who is on her way to city hall sainthood for her efforts to get the plan completed, mentioned that she saw dozens of people attend meetings with copies of draft of the plan printed out and marked up in their hands as they walked into meetings.

James Ridge

The Strategic Plan came out of a city administration run by city manager James Ridge – it is now his to deliver on.

JC Bourque + Ridge + Dwyer

KPMG consultant JC Bourne with city manager James Ridge and Michelle Dwyer – the woman said to have made the creation of the Strategic Plan possible.

City manager Ridge said that the Strategic Plan “would have never happened with Michelle work”.

In his  closing remarks Councillor Craven said that he supported the plan (he had few questions about the content) but thought it took far too long and that it could have been done at a weekend symposium without consultants.

That’s the way they do things in Aldershot where, as the ward 1 Councillor pointed out “the developers are ahead of the city with their proposals” – Station West – the stacked ton house development is pretty close to a done deal.

The strategic Plan will get some fine tuning in the next few days and get put before Council on the 11th of April. Then the really hard work begins – because all those people who turned up at the public meetings are going to hold this council and its administration accountable for what is set out in the document.

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