Shake up on the city council committee structure; couple of surprises and at least one disappointment.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  November 24, 2011   – If you are one of the at least 25 people who actually watch City Council meetings on Cogeco Cable you will hear the Mayor explain that “the heavy lifting” on the city`s business is done at the Council committee level – which are not broadcast live only on line a day or so after the meeting.

The three committees are:

Kim Phillips, General Manager Budget and Corporate Services, is the strongest administrator at the GM level and has the deepest experience on the technical stuff that makes the wheels turn at the department level.

Budget and Corporate Services

Kim Phillips is the General Manager who heads up this arm of the city’s administration.  The current chair is Paul Sharman of Ward 5, with John Taylor of Ward 3 as his vice chair.

Community Development

Steve Zorbas, General Manager, Development and Infrastructure is not yet a fully tested GM and still has "Acting" in front of his title. New City Manager will have to determine what to do with the title or with the person. Here he speaks with Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward

Steve Zorbas, Acting General Manger of Development and Infrastructure leads the charge for this Committee, which is chaired by Jack Dennison of Ward 4  who is backed up by Marianne Meed Ward of Ward 2.

Community Services

Scott Stewart is the General Manager who heads up this arm of the city administration.  The current committee chair is Rick Craven of Ward 1 with Blair Lancaster of Ward 6 backing him up

Each year a new chair and vice chair are voted in by the members of city council.  Staff, who sit on the other side of the council horseshoe shaped table, just sit and watch and then figure out how they will deal with the new chair voted in.

They got a bit of a jolt when Paul Sharman was given Budget and Corporate Services last December and he kept surprising everyone with a bold, aggressive stance on many issues and some suggestions that had both his colleagues and staff gulping.  He has slowed down a bit and we will hear less from him now that he has been voted in as the vice chair of the Community Services Committee.

Last year we had:

Craven heading up Community Services; Sharman headed up Budget and Corporate Services and Dennison headed up Community Development.

This time out it is going to be different:

On motion, Councillors Meed Ward and Dennison were elected as Chair and Vice-Chair, respectively, of the Community Development Committee, effective December 1, 2011 for the term to expire November 30, 2012.

On motion, Councillors Craven and Taylor were elected as Chair and Vice-Chair, respectively, of the Budget & Corporate Services Committee, effective December 1, 2011 for the term to expire November 30, 2012.

On motion, Councillors Lancaster and Sharman were elected as Chair and Vice-Chair, respectively, of the Community Services Committee, effective December 1, 2011 for the term to expire November 30, 2012.

This is a much different line up.  Dennison was never a very effective chair; Craven is the best chair the city has and was asked to take on the role of chairing Budget and Corporate Services by the Mayor.  Meed Ward, who can be contentious, will likely spend the holidays poring over the Procedural By-Law, something Sharman never managed to do.  It is going to be very interesting to see how Meed Ward manages herself; how executive she is able to be.  This will be the first time that she has a task that she can actually lead on – and perhaps show some of the other Council members how a “real” chair does the job.  It could well be a bit of a defining experience for her and finally give her the opportunity to spread her wings beyond her ward in a way that doesn’t offend other Council members the way it has in the past.

Lancaster of Ward 6 is still developing her personality as a Council member. Being given a committee to chair is a good administrative move. That the chairs were "elected" by their peers is a bit mis-leading. The Mayor has his fingerprints all over this process.

Lancaster will have her hands full as a chair.  She is not a strong administrator but she has a strong General Manager to support her.  It will take a couple of meetings to see how Sharman settles into a much, much lesser role.  There was some surprise around the horseshoe when the Mayor put Sharman`s name forward as the vice-chair of a committee that will not have that strong a chair.

This isn’t intended to suggest Lancaster doesn`t know what she is doing – she tends to focus on values and doing the right thing, which is not always evident in some other members of Council.  Managing a committee, especially one that interacts as much as it does with the different communities will be interesting to see.

The Mayor continues to surprise people with his executive talent.  Difficult to see just what he has in mind with this new line up, but it is quite clear it is his line up.

City Council  will be meeting very early on Monday, November 28th, at a local hotel, to perhaps bring to a close another major staffing shake up which started when the Mayor accepted then City Manager Roman Martiuk’s offer to “step aside”  and leave the employ of the city.

The new City Manager selection process is now in it`s final phase – they just might make a final decision at the November 28th meeting.  One of the candidates for the job is current General Manager of Community Services, Scott Stewart.  Should he be offered the job the amount of time to get up to speed will be decreased considerably and that will bring to the surface some significant problems with the number of people in senior positions with the word Acting” stuck in front of their title.

Scott Stewart, GM Community Services: He will never serve as a diplomat - much more of an in charge guy who gets things done. Is he the kind of right hand man the Mayor wants or needs?

Stewart is more than capable of doing the job of City Manger – he knows the file and he knows where the bench strength of the management team exists.  However, his skill set is not the most important element in the hiring of a City Manager.  The relationship between a Mayor and a City Manager is a very tight one; it is almost an intimate relationship and certainly an intellectually intimate one.  It is essential that they both be on the same page and that each understands their role.  Part of Martiuk’s  “stepping aside”  was because he wasn’t on the same page as either the Mayor or much of the Council.  He certainly wasn’t on the same page as former Mayor Jackson who would claim that Martiuk blocked him at every turn – and with Jackson there were many turns because he didn’t fully understand how municipal government works..

Stewart would never get a job as a member of the diplomatic corps.  He is blunt, direct and he gets things done.   Appreciate that Goldring will have to decide if Stewart is the man that can help him achieve his dream, vision and hopes for the city.  Is he too strong a personality or is his strong personality just what the Mayor needs ?  That is something that will get worked through in the interviewing process.

However the Mayor is just one of seven votes – this has to be a majority vote and given the way Goldring works he will look for a unanimous vote.  Appreciate that there is at least one member of Council with aspirations to become Mayor in the future and perhaps two.  They will look at Stewart and wonder:  Could I be Mayor with this guy as the city manager ?   They may not admit to such thoughts – but this is politics, never forget that.  Politics is about power and the Mayor will want to ensure that he has someone who can help him wield that power.

Frank McKeown on the left talking to Councillor Sharman. McKeown was often referred to as the "seventh" council member during the Strategic Planning session, a term that didn't go over all that well with some senior staff but he has served the Mayor exceptionally well.

Goldring made an excellent choice in choosing Frank McKeown  to serve as his top aide.  Goldring would  not be the Mayor he is today without McKeown  or for that matter without Daphne Jaques.  Both fully understand Goldring and are able to take a concept he develops and execute on that concept almost flawlessly.  Evidence of that was seen in the speakers that were chosen for the Mayor’s Inspire speakers series.  Goldring knew what he wanted, outlined it to McKeown and Jaques and they followed through.

If a Mayor has that kind of support people in place he can get things done.  There are still people who use the phrase – he looked like a deer caught in the headlights – to describe the Mayor and, in the early stages of his term of office that is exactly what he looked like – but that description doesn’t apply today.

Mayor Goldring is in the second phaase of shaping the Council and staff he wants and needs to move forward with his agenda for the city. As collaborative and conciliatory as the Mayoe behaves - make no mistake he has an agenda.

Goldring has a very firm grip on his job: likes it, has yet to make a serious mistake, and is loved by the voters.  He is in the game for a second term for certain and short of a major, major gaff, and that just isn’t in the cards with this guy, he is in for two terms and perhaps even a third term if that`s what he wants.  But that is looking well into the future and crystal balls are very unreliable.

Right now the Mayor wants a city manager that he can move forward with to continue the job he has been doing.  The Mayor and his council may well have that decision made before the end of the month.

Then the new City Manager and Council have to deal with the people who have the word Acting in front of their title.  Acting Director of Parks and Recreation Chris Glen  should have had the word removed some time ago.  He has performed well and the person he replaced is on disability and will stay there.

Acting Executive Director of Finance Joan Ford was given the job when Steve Zorbas moved on and up to the job as Acting General Manager of Development and Infrastructure.  There are concerns in the minds of several council members about his performance at the Economic Development Corporation and in a number of other areas – so that Acting still being in place could be saying something.  Should Zorbas go back to Finance – where does Ford go ?  If Zorbas is confirmed – is Ford really on top of the job of senior finance person for the city?

These are questions that will sit on the desk of the new City Manager come January.  Know this, your Mayor wants a stronger team running the city and the “stepping aside”  done by former City Manager Roman Martiuk might get played out again at other levels.  This Mayor can now stare down any headlights coming at him.  Still a “nice guy”  but now very much a Mayor in charge of his city in a collaborative relationship with his Council.

I don`t think anyone saw this coming last December 1st.


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Get the creative juices flowing; take in lunch, meet colleagues you`ve not seen and get a sense of the pace of business.

By Staff

BURLINGTON, ON  October 31, 2011  It`s business, paying the bills, trying to keep the wolves from the door and see something in the way of a profit at the end of the year.  Just business?  It doesn`t quite work that way.  Every day a retailer, a supermarket manager, an advertising executive – even accountants and lawyers, look for ways to be more creative in the way they offer and deliver their services and work at differentiating themselves from the other guy.  Those ideas just don`t fall off the back of a truck.

It is how one can go about generating the creative idea, the significantly different promotional idea – 10% off just doesn`t cut it anymore – not when you`re up against a WagJag offer of 65% off.  When your competitor does something like that he`s stealing your lunch and going hungry at the same time.

So where do the new creative ideas come from?  What do you do to get the creative juices flowing ?  Gerry Visca is going to talk to business people at the Mayor’s Networking Luncheon Series, Connect-Collaborate-Create, put on by the Burlington Economic Development Corporation this Thursday, November 3rd, at the Burlington Convention Centre.  Visca`s presentation will focus on  unleashing your creative potential.  Gerry engages the audience with his 10 creative laws designed to help teams reach a new level of magnificence.  An inspirational delivery on how to uncover your company’s unique ability and stand out in the marketplace.

Gerry Visca has launched more than 1000 promotional campaigns and will get your creative juices flowing.

Cultivating creativity in business uses the power of creativity and collaboration to strengthen innovation.  In this presentation, Gerry masterfully combines insightful case studies featuring some of the top innovative companies and their unique approach towards driving innovation.   Gerry engages the audience to push the envelope as to what is possible for them and uncover innovation within multiple levels of their organization by cultivating a creative and collaborative internal culture.

As the President of Redchair Branding, Gerry Visca is regarded internationally as Canada’s Creative Coach and creatively inspires people and ideas to action. Gerry Visca is one of the most diversified Creative Directors in Canada with over 15 years of experience:

Visca was originally trained and educated in architecture.  In 1999 he moved into selling ideas and the potential an idea has to significantly change the way a company attracts, engages and interacts with its clients.. Visca has launched over 1,000 marketing campaigns and captured several international branding awards. He has coached hundreds of entrepreneurs and made several TV appearances including CBC Fortune Hunters and is also being considered as a new TV show co-host.

Every business, every business leader needs to get the creative juices refreshed.  Taking in events like this are cheaper than buying a couple of books you probably won`t finish reading.  Lunch and a chance to pick up some ideas and meet with colleagues you`ve not seen for awhile – $65.  Tough deal to beat.  Register at

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Mayor to hand over a golden key – should it open the door to the Burlington Performing Arts Centre? No lease in place yet.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  October 18, 2011  – It is going to be a “boffo” event.  There will be something for everyone.  Face painting, cake, balloons, the Burlington Teen Tour Band, tours of the facility and special shows that will give everyone a chance to sit inside the Main Theatre and hear a short performance.   All to commemorate the turning over of the Burlington Performing Arts Centre from the city (it is your building) to the Burlington Theatre Board, a non-profit organization that is in place to oversee and govern the staff of the Burlington Performing Arts Centre.

Mayor Goldring is usually very direct - no flim flam with this guy. But something went werong last Monday.

This is all a little on the complex side but there are very good reasons for having these different organizations in place.  One of the reasons is to ensure that city council doesn’t get its sticky fingers into the workings of the Centre.  All your council gets to do is own the building on your behalf and provide an ongoing financial subsidy to ensure that it is able to operate.  Council has no say in who appears on the stage, nor can council hire or fire any of the BPAC staff.  That can only be done by the Theatre Board, which is all very good governance and important stuff.

Getting to the point where all those legal wheels turn smoothly is easier said than done.  Plans for the public event have been in development for some time – problems is that there isn’t a lease in place nor is the Relationship Agreement that is to govern how the city, the BPAC and the Theatre Board are going to get along has not been completed.

Council met last night and would have liked to have approved the agreement but it wasn’t ready and so an amendment was put forward that changed the words “Authorize the Mayor and City Clerk to sign”  to “ Authorize staff to continue negotiations regarding”,  and that really isn’t a subtle difference.  It is a very significant difference and your Council could have and should have made that point very clear.  The city does not have a deal with either the Theatre Board or the Burlington Performing Arts Centre – yet.

Burlington is fortunate to have a Mayor who is pretty straight forward guy.  I’ve not seen any fast and loose stuff from him before but on this one – he is treading on soft sand and not the solid footing we normally see from him.  The Mayor is pretty close to a tireless promoter of the Performing Arts Centre and mentions it every chance he gets and promotes with all the authority behind that chain of office he wears.  During the live broadcast of the Council meeting Monday evening he urged people to go to the Centre’s web site and get all the details on the big event.  Fortunately for the Mayor the council meetings broadcast on Cogeco has a limited audience (and we mean limited) so few people would have heard the message.  Good thing – because there isn’t a single word that we could fin on the BPAC’s web site about the city event at the Centre.  Nor was there any mention of the event on the city’s listing of what’s going on in town.

The Theatre Board and the city and yammering away at some pretty fundamental matters – money of course, like who is going to pay for what, when.  If these details don’t get the attention they deserve right up front – you know what happens?  The lawyers get phone calls asking them to get us out of this mess.

That happened to Burlington with the development of the Brant Street Pier.  The agreement between the original contractor and the city didn’t have an adequate dispute resolution and when there was a difference of opinion – well you know what happened with that one.  We got known as the city with the “mistake on the lake”.

Quite why the Mayor wasn’t right up front about the problems – he was being broadcast live on Cogeco and could have used a few minutes to explain what the problem was, but he chose to take a pass.  Not like him.

So, right now the BPAC people are squatters in a building you own.  We apparently haven’t learned all our lessons yet.  The people at BPAC are all very decent folk and very good at what they do.  The people on the Theatre Board are decent folk as well and other than the fact that there are too many lawyers on that Board they are good at what they do.

But good intentions are not what we base our legal undertakings on.  Thought we had learned that lesson.



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Why the anonymity from the Pier Watcher ? This one doesn`t pass the smell test.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  October 4, 2011  – In the world of newspapers and other media you learn to protect your sources, but at the same time be sure that your sources aren’t using you – and when a source does not identify themselves, by which I mean you don’t really know who they are – be very, very, very careful – because that source usually has something to hide and they want to manipulate the process.

A number of months ago there was an email address – a citizen who had developed an interest in what was happening at the foot of Brant Street.  The Pier watcher disappeared during the summer and has now re-appeared with information that they could only have been gotten from the lawyers involved in the dispute with the city.

Your city council has finally resolved what has been a debilitating and financially expensive experience,  but to the credit of both the Mayor, his council and senior city staff – plus those secretive folks in the city’s legal department,  the pier project is now back on track and with a bit of a break with the weather you will be out on that Pier in the summer of 2013.

Expect to see men and equipment out on the Pier any day now. The lawyers of course can now begin their squabbles - the city has a strong casse.

It has been an exhausting process and an expensive one in terms of money spent on lawyers and consultants not to mention the staff time the construction errors ate up.  But we are past that – and we truly are past all that.

However, there are those that want to limit the damage to themselves and they are using the electronic media to mess things up a little while the lawyers work towards some kind of a settlement.

The parties in all this are primarily, Zurich Insurance, the company that put up the performance bond – they want to get out of that mess for as little as possible.

Henry Schilthuis and Sons, the original contractor who walked off the job when they found that they couldn’t complete the job with the design they had been given and  Aecom, the company that now owns the engineers who did the original design work.

The city is suing both for $7.5 million and $10 million respectively and looking for $3.5 million from the insurance company.  These are large sums of money and the people being sued will fight very hard to get the amount of the claim they are going to have to pay down to as low as possible.

So when you see things like what is set out below being sent out you begin to wonder – who is the Pier Watcher and who is he working for and where is he getting his information ?  Read on and decide for yourself.

 Enter Howard Wise – the construction lawyer you would rather have on your side.

 Clearly HSS Construction is not planning to back down from the Brant Street Pier fiasco. In fact, they’ve decided that Howard Wise will be replacing Phil Horgan to lead the HSS legal battle. This only can signal that the gloves are coming off. Horgan is known as a construction lawyer who concentrates on reaching solutions. Howard Wise has a reputation of fighting and winning.

 This seems to be a shift for Henry Schilthuis, (president of HSS) well known for his gentle demeanour and his default to working out problems (HSS hasn’t been embroiled in a lawsuit in over 50 years until the pier came along).  It could be that the bonding company is pushing HSS to start playing hardball and teach the municipality a lesson. There are concerns among bonding companies that municipalities are relying too heavily on bonding companies to solve what are contractual disputes.

 What does all this mean? Goldring and company now know Election Issues #1.

Language like “teach the municipality a lesson” and the concerns of the bonding company – interesting.  Will the Pier Watcher come forward and identify himself ?

Election issue # 1 is to deliver on your promises and Goldring said he would finish the Pier and his Council has gone along with him.  All the critical votes have been 7-0  Promises by the Mayor have been delivered.


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