The Mayor responds to citizen complaints

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

June 8th, 2021

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Gazette reader who sent us the photographs of the nonsense going on downtown on Saturday had been in touch with the Mayor who did get back to her with a lengthy response which we have published below

Saturday balcony shot

It was a large group that had located at the lake side of the Waterfront Hotel.

The Mayor wrote:

Thank you very much for reaching out and sharing your concerns and observations.

I’ll respond in this one email to both the emails you sent.

I do hope the information provided here will assist in explaining what we have done and will do, what residents can do to help, and give some clarity around provincial regulations (though I note you have copied MPP McKenna who can answer any questions you may have about provincial regulations).

Please do feel free to share this correspondence widely with all those you know who might also find the information helpful.

And please don’t hesitate to contact my office if you or they have further questions or observations. Mayor@burlington.ca

You have raised several issues, which I will address in turn: crowding in parks, vehicular noise and general noise, and garbage.
First, residents can be enormously helpful to us by letting staff know in real time of any issues – that helps us address them immediately while they are happening.

To report COVID violations, including gatherings, you can contact the COVID hotline which has been in effect for a year now: 905-825-4722 This line goes directly to police dispatch, who then connect with our bylaw officers. After bylaw hours, police will attend, though we have significantly added to our bylaw hours and resources (see below). Bylaw does work evenings and weekends.

To report garbage, please connect directly with our roads and parks maintenance staff at rpf@burlington.ca They are cc’d here

To report noise or other bylaw infractions, please connect directly with our bylaw team at building@burlington.ca They are cc’d here

Though our staff regularly patrol parks throughout the city, we do count on residents to also work with us, and by using the contact information above you can assist.

We do know that our parks are well used, especially during COVID with travel restrictions and more people staying at home for recreation. We do invite and encourage people to get outside for their physical and mental health, and to use our parks responsibly. For the most part, residents have done so, and I’m very grateful for these efforts. It’s one of the reasons that in Burlington, and Halton, infection rates have remained far below all other GTHA municipalities around us.

There are no limits on the number of people who can be in any of our parks at any one time. Organized gatherings of people who are not in the same household are currently limited to 5, with physical distancing. I understand it can be a challenge to keep on top of regulations that are changing. We’ve put together a handy resource on my webpage below. We know the regulations will continue to change as we move into further stages that will allow more businesses and services to reopen. We will continue to share information as we receive it.

I do appreciate the photos you have sent of the pier, playground, park and walkway.

While there are multiple people in the photos, it is impossible to tell how close people are together – cameras tend to flatten the view – or whether or not people are from the same household. Households can include children the same age (we have twins!), there are blended families with children the same age, there are multi-racial families, there are multi-generational families.

We do know that in some neighbourhoods in Burlington, there are multiple families and multiple generations living in the same household. What looks to be a large gathering may be a single family. I caution people drawing conclusions based on observation without any direct knowledge of that particular family makeup.

As noted, if you are concerned about a gathering you can contact the COVID-19 hotline and someone can check it out.

It is good to see people outside getting exercise and fresh air – this is good for their physical and mental health, and as noted the risk of the virus spreading outside is very low, according to medical experts.

When the pandemic first hit, and before we knew much about the virus, we blocked our parking lots to keep people in their neighbourhoods and manage crowds. The beach was fenced off. When the third wave hit, I called a special council meeting a few weeks ago to determine whether to take the same steps again regarding closing parking lots. In the end, staff and council chose not to do so. We know more about the virus now, and know that being outside is safe and healthy, and we encourage people to use our parks responsibly.

You mentioned your brother is mayor of another municipality. Our office would be happy to connect with him and hear about their experience, and whether they are facing the same issues we are and what might be relevant and useful for us. I’m in regular touch with mayors across Ontario, through chairing the Halton Mayors & Chair meetings, membership on the Large Urban Caucus of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, membership in the Ontario Big City Mayors Caucus, and the Small & Mid-Sized GTHA mayors and other tables. We often share ideas, and face similar challenges, though there is no one size fits all for any community.

Generally the feedback has been supportive of how Burlington has managed the pandemic and its many challenges, and our collective efforts have led to low infection rates.

Regarding garbage issues: we have added staff to deal with this, and it’s a challenge at all of our major regional and destination parks. We’ve added multiple clean outs per day but at busy times the cans can fill in hours. We will review once again.

We have also mounted education campaigns to ask people to take their garbage with them. On a side note, when I visited Japan two years ago, they don’t have garbage cans anywhere in the city except inside restaurants. People are expected to look after their own garbage. And the cities are very clean. There is a culture of personal responsibility, rather than expecting someone else to pick up for you or others.

Saturday garbge

Mayor explains: “Garbage in our parks on busy weekends is not new – but certainly has increased with more people being home due to COVID travel restrictions and restaurants remaining closed.”

It is truly disturbing the lack of personal responsibility and care some show for our city and our parks. The vast majority do respect our spaces, but it only takes a few to mess up the park. Garbage in our parks on busy weekends is not new – but certainly has increased with more people being home due to COVID travel restrictions and restaurants remaining closed. I can recall helping to clean up the park voluntarily myself over the years, after large groups had been there, working side by side with other great volunteers – I’m sure you’ve done the same in your volunteering.

We know with hot weather, more people at home, restaurants closed so more people are eating in the park, that the volumes of people visiting are greater than we’ve ever had, and so is the garbage – though this should ease somewhat in a few weeks when people are able to once again visit our restaurants, and once we start to emerge from the pandemic and people can travel.

Regarding vehicular noise, police regularly patrol downtown and other hot spots in the city through their Project Noisemaker program, pulling over cars, trucks and motorcycles with modified mufflers. The program runs Friday and Saturday from 8pm to 2am. We are grateful for their work and partnership and, having participated in some of these blitzes in the past, I know how effective they are in getting these vehicles off the road and issuing tickets.

I have also begun exploring with staff whether additional bylaws would assist. Stay tuned for more on this. In addition, there is new technology for noise cameras, that would issue tickets similar to a red light camera. I’m working with staff to get information on this in time for budget, in case this is something we’d like to pursue at hot spots around the city. It’s not cheap – about $150,000 for each – but worth looking into.

Regarding general bylaw enforcement, of COVID regulations, noise, or other matters, we do have bylaw officers on duty throughout the city on weekends and evenings.

When bylaw are not available, police take the call. For several years in a row, starting with the previous council, we have continued to add more resources to our bylaw team, including an additional two officers earlier this year for COVID calls, with assistance from Halton Region. This has helped us respond to more issues, however the demand continues to grow. I expect we will again consider adding to bylaw staff during our upcoming 2022 budget discussions.

All calls by police and bylaw are triaged and responded to according to health and safety first. We have had an almost 200+ Percent increase in bylaw calls, and police have seen similar increases. There has been a devastating and significant increase in domestic violence calls, and they take priority – and often occur during the same hours of the night and weekend that other noise calls occur. There has also been an increase in breakins, and police have recently put out information for homeowners, and reported the arrest of an individual.

Regarding crowding at the Esso, and defecating/urinating downtown, we are aware that there are crowds waiting to use the washrooms. We have recently announced opening city hall evenings and weekends (starting this past weekend) to help ease the situation there, especially since restaurants are closed and those washrooms are not available. We have also added more port-a-potties in the park to deal with increased demand, and can reevaluate this again.

saturday pathwat promenade

Mayor response: “I hope the information from medical professionals about the low risk of transmission outside will be of some reassurance.”

I hope that this background will help reassure you that we are taking steps to deal with the issues you have raised, and will continue to explore additional steps and options. I hope the information from medical professionals about the low risk of transmission outside will be of some reassurance.

Meed Ward hands out frnt city hall

Mayor: “I love Burlington, and love serving our awesome residents. I have served this community for 10 years, and have seen firsthand the progress we have made together.”

I am sorry to hear you say you are beginning to hate where you live. I love Burlington, and love serving our awesome residents. I have served this community for 10 years, and have seen firsthand the progress we have made together. We are getting better at addressing a whole range of issues, and more importantly properly resourcing them, including adding bylaw staff, and parks staff. I’m proud of the work of this current council on a whole range of matters, including downtown issues.

We have our challenges for sure, like any city, but we are all working together – police, bylaw, city staff, and members of council with our residents – to do everything we can to meet these challenges head on to ensure continued quality of life for everyone.

Additional ideas are always welcome.

The resident had written the Mayor saying: “I photographed my experience. I am really beginning to hate where I live.”

“We can’t have The Sound Of Music but this is all perfectly ok?

The Gazette was asked not to identify the resident.

 

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6 comments to The Mayor responds to citizen complaints

  • Rob n

    That’s one looong response.

    To report problem X, contact city department A at 905.555.1234
    To report problem Y, contact city department B at 905.555.1235
    To report problem Z, contact city department C at 905.555.1236….and so on.

    Too bad we don’t have a centralized 311 system that you can call 24 hrs a day and get your call directed to the right department, between 8 AM and 4 PM, Monday through Friday.

    Be better than having to carry a phone book with you, or the Mayor’s 12 page road map!

  • Chris

    Now they charge for parking. The city should take some of the money to clean the beach garbage cans . In the picture it shows the garbage overflowing in the bin. You think the city would have people cleaning it??

  • Dianne

    As far as I’m concerned this Mayor skirts around the issues. The garbage has been an ongoing issue long before the pandemic. the public parking lot across from the art gallery, is constantly over flowing and still is an issue. I can’t comment on the social gatherings, but in my opinion it is totally unacceptable.

  • Diane Knox

    If you Build it they will come!. So, I/ we lost the battle to Save our Lakeshore in the 70’s for the citizens of Burlington and now we have- Condo corridor ( Lakeshore Rd), Theme Park Spencer Smith, a Pier for no purpose except to walk and crowd , thousands of citizens living in stacked congested housing wanting to enjoy One of Canada’s Wonders- a Fresh water Lake needing parking permits, And Million dollar condo owners complaining about whatever- noise, garbage, traffic etc…
    Lesson learned– Be careful what you build, but too late I fear. The shame is on all previous Councils and Provincial mandates. Reversing 50 years of History is certainly a challenge. Good luck

  • JUDITH CHRISTIE

    We all must respect the manner by which our mayor responds to issues that have raised the ire of the Burlington citizens . This was also true when serving as ward 2 councillor.
    Thank you!

    Now, how is the public served?
    First the police department’s reaction is exemplary with respect to immediate concerns. Follow up is assured. And long term support is given .
    Second, councillors try their best to resolve issues through dialogue. Some success results . This is a slow process but appreciated.
    Third, the city staff who is the “go to” for action appear to treat citizen concerns with its own request to complete reports followed by a bureaucratic flow of paperwork. leaving issues unresolved.
    How about noise complaints which are investigated by first informing the culprits that an inspection is pending!
    How about advising residents that if staff is not available after hours to call the nite line. And when that is addressed a voice message ( or night operator ) greets the caller advising the staff will be notified in working hours ( on weekends and at 2am how good is that???)
    How about street loiterers at midnight congregating disturbing the fearful neighbourhood and utilizing driveways and shop entrances in lieu of washrooms.
    How about the cars saluting the late nighters with the cacophony produced from modified mufflers?

    These are but a sample of the frustrations the downtown communities experience ,And are Voiced with respect to all who are trying to arrive at a solution.

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