Transparency means telling your constituents as much as you possibly can – trust them and they will learn to trust you.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  May 30, 2012  Council will meet this evening and probably approve the repairs to the Drury Lane pedestrian bridge, approve a bunch of paving contracts.  They will also hear from the BurlingtonGreen people about the turbine they want to see on the Pier.  It won’t be a long meeting, there doesn’t appear to be anything contentious on the agenda.

What I hope we hear this evening is an announcement from the Mayor that he and Councillors Lancaster and Sharman will be off to Saskatoon to attend the Federation of Canadian Municipalities annual conference.  So far we have not heard a word about this event at a public meeting.

Politicians tend to shy away from talking about those occasions when they are going to be spending public funds on themselves.  Mayor Goldring is given a sum to be spent on the things a Mayor does.  He proudly reported that he had not spent all the money he has given – which I personally think is failing to do his job.  He was given the money to use – use it.

Three of the magnificent Seven are off to Saskatoon. Goldring, Sharman and Lancaster pack their bags for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities convention. The rest of the country gets to see what we have to offer.

The community elects people to represent them.  The seven people we elected in Burlington oversee the spending of $ 116 million operating budget and close to $22 million in capital spending and the employment of more than 1000 people.  The decisions they make impact directly on the quality of life we live in this city.  We need to trust them and they need to trust us – and that means telling us everything they do.

In the past few days, as I drive down Guelph Line (in my car and not on my bike)  I have seen dozens of young men and woman wearing those bright safety vests planting plants, flowers and shrubs.  My tax dollars are being used to pay for those people and plants and in the next few weeks I am going to be treated to what I think will be a delightful scene.  I think that was good spending.

I think sending Goldring, Lancaster and Sharman to Saskatoon is also good spending – but while the Mayor will comment on the plants and how nice they make the city look – he is loath to talk about occasions when funds are spent on sending Council members to conventions.

At this point we don’t have an adequate process for determining what we should pay these Council members and if they dare increase their salaries by more than $100 there is a huge howl from the public.

I don’t agree with some of the decisions they make.  Some of the comments made at Council border on real dumb and uninformed.  There are times when a Council member hasn’t done their homework.  There are times when they get into the details of a project – that’s what staff are there to do – but on balance this is a good council doing good work.  This is our Council.  They work hard, they are diligent.

We have a new city manager who left a larger city to come to Burlington because the Council where he was didn’t work the way the Burlington Council works.  And the Mayor he parted ways with in London was an experience he did not want to endure any longer.

Let three members of our Council be off to Saskatoon – serve us well and don’t mention that Burlington is the second best city in the country to live in too often – it will grate on your colleagues.  Also, a real close look at the data that got us the award isn’t all that positive.

And please, be more open with your citizens – trust them so they can trust you.  You didn’t intend to hide anything – you just didn’t want to raise the ire of those who howl when you spend anything and then complain loudly when you don’t rake up the leaves fast enough or clear their sidewalks of snow in the winter.  You’re dealing with the public – the good, the less than good and the very unpleasant.




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2 comments to Transparency means telling your constituents as much as you possibly can – trust them and they will learn to trust you.

  • tony millimgton

    I find it offensive to critize our elected official when they are sent on conventions which many citizens see as being perks. Who wants to go to Saskatoon ??? I certainly wouldn’t
    want to run for council yout time is never your own.

    I believe our elected officials past and present have been doing a woderful job and as you pointed out we are the second most desireable community in Canada. Amazing !!! as a tax payer please keep up the good work it is so easy to be critical.

    I think you deserve Hawaii not Saskatoon and flying Air Canada to Saskatoon its probably the same price.

    • parrking

      We were not criticizing their going to a convention – we were criticizing their not fully informing the public that they were going.
      I agree with you – Hawaii would have been better but can you imagine the public howl if that were where the convention was being held?