Freshman reporter attends first ever council meeting – he says it wasn’t pretty.

By Walter Byj,

Staff reporter

BURLINGTON, ON  March 19, 2013  I witnessed my first full council meeting on Monday night, and  left with mixed feelings. I was somewhat impressed with the knowledge base of the Councillors, but disappointed with some other aspects of the meeting. Following are my observations, in no particular order.

What was the reason for the barbs that were quite apparent between Councillors Rick Craven and Marianne Meed Ward?   Is there a personal history here?  To be fair, throwing barbs seems to be common among all of the Councillors. Maybe that is part of the political game, but one would think that it could be done in a more civil manner.  It appeared as if members were trying to achieve points over each other.

Freshman reporter Walter Byj thought the transit fare delegation made some strong points – doesn’t understand why their advice wasn’t taken.

Then there was the matter of the two delegations that wanted the proposed 8% bus fare price increase deferred.  Although it did lead to one council member re-evaluating and changing her vote (Meed Ward), others on the council seemed to take any opposition as a personal affront to their good judgement.  Is this ego at play, or are people just being stubborn?

Is this response common to previous or future delegations?  I got the impression that because the Councillors did a lot of hard work and have a great new plan, then their decision must be right. The fare increase is a go with only Rick Craven and Marianne Mead Ward voting against.

Councillor Blair Lancaster seemed quite upset at the way the discussion was and asked the delegation if  council should do nothing.  “We want to work with the people, not against them,” said Lancaster.


Reporter Walter Byj wondered if the amount gained with a transit fare increase would offset the amount being given to the Performing Arts Centre?

While council was eagerly raising bus fares, not sure how much will be raised, they were just as eagerly spending close to half a million dollars over the next two years for the Burlington Performing Arts Centre. Hopefully the bus fare increase will cover this expenditure. At least Councillor Ward was consistent as she voted against both the fare increase and the additional funds for the BPAC.

I wish the Performing Arts success, but not sure at what cost. Mayor Rick Goldring did mention that although the BPAC did lose money last year, the professional shows did turn a profit. Hopefully this does not turn out to be another pier, which was not discussed at all.  That was good news.

Was it the English accent or the cadence of his speech, but I got the impression that Councillor Paul Sharman seems to know what is best for Burlington. I kind of got the feeling that I was being talked down to.

Not sure if this is common to all the meetings, but there were no break scheduled for this meeting. Not sure as to why this is so, as even the most exciting of events plan a break so that everyone can take a moment to refresh. And trust me, the excitement level here does not compare to a sporting event.

Well, that is my quick review. Thank goodness we have reporters who do this on a regular basis and summarize the proceedings in their stories. If you can’t attend the meetings, at least read the articles so that you will have a better understanding of the proceedings.  As for me, I just might sit in on another meeting as making judgements on just one is not fair.  Not sure if I will attend the meeting live at city hall, or watch it on Cogeco Cable.

Walter Byj is a more than 40 year Burlington resident who lives north of the QEW.  He was employed as a Sales operations and planning manager with a major consumer products company for more than 30 years. He also worked in  the field as a sales representative calling on department store branches in south-western Ontario.  Walter also did his time at Dofasco where he did  follow through for customers in the Hot Roll and Plate section.  A graduate of Ryerson University Walter Byj completed a Bachelor of Business Management degree and diploma in Business Administration between  1967–1973 in a combination of full and part-time study.


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3 comments to Freshman reporter attends first ever council meeting – he says it wasn’t pretty.

  • G. Piller

    “I kind of got the feeling I was being talked down too” This reporter is not the only person feeling this way after listening to Councillor Paul Sharman. I personally find most council meetings to be like Mondays. Moments of great incite in making Burlington an inclusive and accessible community through open community consultation and input; then ignorance which makes you shake your head.

    My favorite at this past council meeting was a comparison to raising Parks and Recreation fees for Sports and the bus fare increase. The councillor seemed to have a disconnect in why residents only complained about bus fare increases and not increases in sports fees.

    Take a look at who is playing sports and paying the fees for those sports… not the same people taking the bus. If you are struggling to pay $3.00 to take the bus, you are certainly not paying to play at the Rec Centre.

    You really have to live poverty to understand poverty… Public consultation with those who live and use the system is vital to understanding it.

  • Joan Gallagher-Bell

    Freshman Reporter please don’t think this is appropriate behavior of grown ups! Council has been as you experienced from the start but now the posturing is starting for the role of Mayor. It is a bit early but many have been posturing since day one. I won’t mention the names individually but all the names you mention are part of the process. It is very distressing to know speaking or trying to discuss concerns with Council is a effort better used else where. In living in Burlington for 50 plus years I have seen politicians come and go. Perhaps if you review the positive impact former Mayor Mary Munro gave to Burlington you would see a comparison and be even more disillusioned with present Council.
    Just know honest factual reporting is what all the residents of Burlington need. Particularly in the year ahead. No we don’t need prima donnas or self grandizing persons but rather a politician for the people. Will Burlingtonians be able to find one? Not sure there is a candidate at the present Council. Just call me disillusioned but still living in Burlington with disgust at the antics. I have grandchildren that obviously are younger than Council and I would not have them act that way. The thing is the grandchildren act more mature.
    ‘Disappointed but still living in Burlington’

  • Walter Byj has written an interesting article. He is right about most of the councillors ignoring the delegations by Doug Brown of Bfast (Burlington for Accessible Sustainable Transit) and by James Smith. It’s upsetting that Council preempted the review of transit fares that was planned for the next few months, with possible implementation in September. Instead, there was no consultation with the public and no consultation with the City’s Transit Advisory Committee. (I hope the members of this committee realize how highly they are regarded by Burlington’s Council and take appropriate action.) Then there is the important point that the fare increases will hurt most those people living on low incomes who are completely dependent on transit. Congratulations to the Council on putting millions of dollars into roads and at the same time keeping the tax increase to 4.46%.

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