A very acceptable first year in office - can they keep up the brutal pace?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

December 3rd, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It was a year ago this evening – the new city council was sworn in.

Ridge 4

City Manager James Ridge is shown the exit door.

The next day the Mayor called a Special Meeting of Council and got their approval to fire the city manager.

There were other changes in the wind. The Council’s first budget increase was modest – but the Mayor had to convince her Council to shake $4million out of the hydro Reserve Fund.

That this was going to be a different council was made evident the night the Goldring Council held its last meeting. Meed Ward had some comments she wanted to make – Mayor Goldring politely advised her that comments were not permitted at that point. Marianne Meed Ward stunned the Mayor and the City Clerk that she wanted to speak on a point of personal privilege. While the Clerk was shuffling through the Procedural bylaw Meed Ward gave her a copy with the appropriate section marked.

And then she let blast. The full report of that meeting is linked below.

Paul Sharman was the only holdover from the 2006 through to 2018 terms; the others either resigned or were defeated. ( In 2010 every council member was re-elected.)

The other five were new to municipal politics. They had basically zero political experience and several had to struggle but they learned the ropes and little by little we began to see where there was some talent and where some help was going to be needed.

There was a new city manager who had served the city in the past; he was known, well-liked by most and was able to bring some stability to an administration that had gone through a very difficult period of time and knew that there were many rough months ahead.

Mary Lou Tanner

Mary Lou Tanner’s job disappears – she finds the exit door.

The Deputy City Manager was shown the door; there was a new Chief Planner with a team that needed help and support.

The learning curve for the five new council members was steep; some are not doing all that well.  Some have surprised us while others have been a disappointment.

What is evident is that this Council is pulling together and doing so rather well.

Collectively they are taking on huge issues – Climate Change was a challenge they did not shirk.

The opportunities to do things that were badly needed were embraced and while there is a lot that is not yet known – the outcome, whatever it is, will not be because this council didn’t try.

The members of council are learning the strengths and weaknesses of their colleagues; they are as well learning which Staff members are straight shooters and which are not to be relied upon all that much.

None of the five had any idea that the experience they are having is what they imagined the day they submitted their nomination papers.

The city’s downtown core is under an Interim Control Bylaw which means nothing moves forward until the research and the deep thinking is done.

Official-Plan-Binder_Image

Official Plan gets re-write.

Football - east end cropped

Might work in Mississauga – not wanted in Burlington.

The re-write of portion of the Official Plan is taking place – with the Planning staff trying every idea out there to involve the citizens.

Some stunning developments have been brought forward; all of which would be embraced quickly by Mississauga – but Burlington is not Mississauga.

Council has to come to terms with wanting to do everything and what fiscal reality will permit.  There are only so many Reserve funds that can be raided.

At this point council deserves to be told publicly that we appreciate what they are trying to do and wish them well as they enter their second year of their four year term.

A closer review however is merited.

The day Meed Ward let the outgoing council have it right between the eyes.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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3 comments to A very acceptable first year in office – can they keep up the brutal pace?

  • Rob Allan

    I agree with the article’s sentiments. Certainly a top grade for effort but we have to wait and see the results over the next few years of their term. However, I must say that MMW has far exceeded expectations, Council has been re-energized and I would suspect that there is a less toxic environment at City Hall.

  • Hans Jacobs

    Especially considering the mess and the constraints this Council inherited, I think they’ve done very well. I wish them continued success in their second year.

  • As for your article indicating that this Council has done well in its first year, we will have to agree to disagree.

    We have a mayor that spent $31,000.00 for a trip to Japan. The city spent over $76.000.00 for Burlassic Park ( and is now questioning where they would get $60,000.00 for tree planting). They pass a motion to have “Rainbow Intersections” which have been proven to be a distraction for drivers. We have more Committees, looking into improving business etc….has anything positive come out of these.

    All the pop-ups, food for feedback, action labs etc. have resulted in 2 concepts from the planning department for the downtown that I doubt came from resident suggestions in the city’s engagement process which I have led to believe cost taxpayers over $600,000.00. Let’s not forget the Citizen Advisory Committee Action Labs that resulted in the Report being pulled last minute from the meeting Agenda.

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