Ward 4 Councillor talks to her constituents virtually - covers a lot of ground

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

April 13th, 2021



Members of Council are working out new approaches to meeting with their constituents.

With the next election not that far away the need to thicken the relationship with the voters becomes essential.

News anal REDWard 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte had made a practice of setting up a couple of coffee urns and lets her people know that you could find her at Denningers early Saturday morning on a specific date. People got to know and would drop by with their issues – sometimes a decent crowd sometimes just a couple. The point was she was available –and it worked.

Covid put a stop to that approach. Stolte, ever the innovator, decided she would hold virtual events – held one last night that went well.

opening screenThey are not the “anyone can drop in” type of event. You had to register and if you lived in the ward Stolte’s assistant would send you a link that got you in the door as it were.

The Gazette was told that these were not public events per se – they were open only to people in the ward.

Earlier in the day we had a conversation with a person who had bought a property in the Pinewood Cove area and was having a very difficult time getting the changes he wanted to make to a property he bought before moving in – he wasn’t able to get the clearances he needed. .
He didn’t, technically live in the ward and didn’t think attending would do much for him. He did take part in the Zoom event last night but finds himself no further ahead.

Stolte explained that things were not moving as well as everyone wanted them to in the Planning department and getting a building permit was close to impossible. They are seriously understaffed when it came to getting building permits. Stolte explained the One Window approach that was being created – that single window meant that anyone going to the Building permit people would be assigned a Project “manager” who would shepherd their project from start to finish.

As Stolte explained – they weren’t quite there yet – which is really not good customer service. Someone needs to rattle some chains and clear out the backlog so that people can get on with living their lives.

This particular individual said he has been told that there are no problems with his application – it is just going to take time to move it through the process. He has his trades people lined up but fears he is looking at a winter build – there is no word on just when the “being there” would occur.

Stolte gave a quick overview of what the budget looks like – where the money goes and where Council was able to do some cost cutting.

budget infographic


Unfortunately Stolte, like almost everyone else at city hall, has swallowed the Kool Aid when it comes to explaining the tax increase.. The tax increase this year is 2.5% – which is true. She then explained that the tax figure is an averaging of the amount of taxes that are paid to the Region and to the school boards. Burlington does all the collecting.

What she didn’t explain was that city Councillors have absolutely no influence on the school board tax; they have some influence on the Regional tax but Burlington has just 7 of the 24 Regional Council votes.

Burlington council members decide on what the city tax rate is going to be and this year it went from 2.99 in 2020 to 4.14 in 2021.  Finance has projected something int the order of 5% for 2022

To use the 2.25 %number as the 2021 tax increase is misleading – dishonest actually and is a habit the bureaucrats and the politicians need to put an end to.

A lot of time was spent on the housing initiative the city has taken on. It appears to be shaping up as the issue Mayor Meed Ward will use as the strongest election platform plank come May of 2022 when election campaigning can start. The rest of Council will jump on that band wagon.

Housing at a price that younger people can afford is an issue – Council has spent a lot of time crafting policies and procedures that they expect will get the city to the point where they will have a plan they can put before the public, Hard to argue with something that could put people in badly needed decently price accommodation.

Councillor Stolte looking for a response to her motion - put forward last April

Councillor Stolte looking for a response to her motion.

Meed Ward at BSCI

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward

Stolte made it clear that the city will not be building homes – what they want to do is create an approach to providing homes that are badly needed. They talk in terms of working with different stakeholders, collaborating with people who have a strong interest in housing – perhaps making some city owned land available to a group who, under the right circumstances, would build homes that would be “attainable”

Is it a pig in a poke? Far too early to tell.

The organizational structure is a compromise with what council wanted and what the city manager said he could work with.

There is a Steering Group and a Working Group.

Commisso stare

City Manager Tim Commisso

Every idea will be run through the Steering Group, which will not have any council representation and will be chaired by the City Manager, will however tell council about every idea they looked at.

The working group will be made up of 20 people. At this point we know that the Mayor and Councillors Stolte and Sharman will be on that committee. The rest of the spots are open to people who apply.

Just what the working group is going to do is not clear but there will be about 20 people on it.

City Staff are assembling a Working Group in support of the Housing Strategy to advise on local issues, be champions for the Housing Strategy and to provide key insights from a diversity of backgrounds, experiences and expertise. If you are interested, please fill out the form

The Steering Group is in the process of hiring a consultant and has a budget of $250,000

What is really happening is this – Burlington has decided to horn in on what is a Regional responsibility. It will be interesting to see how that works out.

There is a lot of confusion about just what affordable housing is and who gets it. There is a very clear, but complicated formula that determines if a family or a person qualifies for assisted housing – something they can afford,

Affordable had a connotation that it was welfare housing – the people involved in this new initiative needed a new name – the bureaucrats and the politicians have solved that problem. The have coined the word “attainable’ meaning that the properties would be attainable if the price or cost is low enough.

Co-op housing has been doing that for decades with deep support from CMHC. But with co-ops the residents don’t have any equity – which means they are not in the housing game and able to take advantage of the fabulous property price increases that we have seen in the past year.

Stolte explained that the initiative that has everyone a flutter is a made in Burlington approach to a Burlington problem.   Housing” she explained, “ is not just a building people live in – it is about community and community is very much what this council is all about.

A draft public engagement plan will be presented to Council late May or June.

This is a significant new policy initiative that reflects the views and aspirations of this Council.  It needs to be watched very carefully – the intentions are laudable – the execution of those intentions is the concern.

Related news stories:

The affordable housing issue.

A virtual meeting where the public had some input.

City wants to get into the housing game   Part of a series

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3 comments to Ward 4 Councillor talks to her constituents virtually – covers a lot of ground

  • James

    “Stolte explained that things were not moving as well as everyone wanted them to in the Planning department and getting a building permit was close to impossible.”

    Hardly the rosy picture our spin doctor Mayor paints, huh? I wasn’t sure about Stolte in the beginning of her term, but she’s proving to be one of the more solid Councillors in this new group. Honesty is a nice change. The Mayor could learn something from her.

  • Phillip Wooster

    Stolte can save her breath. Her track record of increasing spending (non-pandemic), virtue-signalling initiatives and taxes during a pandemic has been detailed. I suspect very strongly that this is a political initiative to start campaigning for her reelection, knowing that a growing number of people have figured out this mayor and council, including Stolte, have their own agenda. It won’t work. Last municipal election I worked hard in Ward 4–at least the surrounding 10 blocks to ensure that area residents were fully aware of Jack Dennison’s real track record at City Hall; I will do no less for this out-of-area councillor next year.