Mayor focuses on what she wants to do during her first term.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

February 4th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Mayor’s State of the city address last week before the Chamber of Commerce was a first for Marianne Meed Ward. She will get to do this three more times before she has to go before the electorate who will decide if she has heard what the city wants and has made measurable strides in getting there.

She spoke at length last Wednesday, she did not get a standing ovation and there were a few issues – climate change and the private tree bylaw – that got a clap or two from a tree hugger or a “this is a hill to die on “ environmentalist.

She was a little off her pace on a very few occasions – but at the end of the session when people were getting their coats and preparing to step out into some very cold weather there were a number, a rather significant number of people who were lined up to say a few words to the new Mayor and hang around to have pictures taken.

The Gazette has published State of the City address for the past eight years they aren’t the kind of thing that people dig out of the archives. We publish them for the record.

The Meed Ward address had a lot of information that has to be teased out and looked at in a larger context. The Gazette will be doing a series of articles in the next few weeks drilling down into what she had to say and suggesting as well as we can what we might expect from our Mayor.

Receiving line touching male

Mayor Meed Ward chatting with one of the people who attended her State of the City address.We have been watching Meed Ward for more than ten years; we sat in on several of her early campaign meetings when she first ran for the ward 2 seat in 2010.The issue that will overshadow all the others is the Region’s decision to return the Official Plan. Here is what Meed Ward had to say on that:

“As a result, I am bringing forward a motion to re-examine the policies of the Official Plan that was adopted, though not officially approved, in April of 2018, and review matters of height and density. Halton Region has also recently identified areas of non-conformity, so this motion seeks to gain the time to address those issues.

“Once the Region identified areas of non-conformity, that stopped the clock on approving the new Official Plan and opened the plan up for any other matters of discussion. This allows our new City Council the time to define what areas we want to study, undertake that work, consult with the community, and send back a comprehensive plan. We expect that plan to truly reflect the needs, best interests and vision of the community and its elected Council.

“The motion will also provide absolute clarity to staff and to the community that the City of Burlington staff are not to use the adopted 2018 plan in evaluating current/new development applications and the existing Official Plan is still in full legal force and effect. Multiple analyses by staff in assessing development applications, downtown in particular, have made it clear we do not need to over-intensify in order to meet our obligations under the Province’s Places To Grow legislation.

“Further, we will immediately discontinue use of the “Grow Bold” term and related branding to ensure we are absolutely clear on our direction.”

There are some critically important phrases:

this motion seeks to gain the time to address those issues.

Red jacket at city hall

She is focused on putting her mark on city hall.

stopped the clock on approving the new Official Plan and opened the plan up for any other matters of discussion.

The motion will also provide absolute clarity to staff and to the community that the City of Burlington staff are not to use the adopted 2018 plan in evaluating current/new development applications and the existing Official Plan is still in full legal force and effect.

Meed Ward knows exactly where she wants to go and has a council with five new members that has yet to find its footing – they will follow her lead – it is what they based their individual election platforms on.

Mary Lou Tanner

Deputy city manager Mary Lou Tanner.

The really strong differences of opinion between the Mayor and the Deputy city manager are so wide and have been that way for a long time – one of them has to go – not much guesswork on who will be clearing out a desk before the end of the year.

The Planning department is going to have to come into line very soon with the thinking that is taking place at council.

Roman Martiuk, failed to advise council that there was going to be a $9 million budget surplus in 2011 – that cost him his job.

Martiuk used to tell council he was there to “serve the will of council”. Interim city manager Tim Commisso is going to have to determine just what the will of council is and then ensure that the departments fall into line.

Director of Finance Joan Ford does a great job of providing the data ad her department does a good job of collecting the taxes as well. It's the spending side that is causing the long term financial stress. Ms Ford doesn't do the spending.

Director of Finance Joan Ford

There are several departments that have been doing a fine job for some time: Finance, Capital Works and Information Technology are worthy of bonuses. Planning is a mess; Transportation is so far behind in several of its critical reports that are holding up a number of other initiatives.

The world of municipal administration has to be in tune with the political changes that take place in a community. There are some at city hall who appear to have tin ears and don’t understand the change that took place last October when the ballots were cast or they don’t care and will continue to do what they have been doing since those ballots were marked.

Meed Ward has made it abundantly clear – the times have changed – get with the plan.

There are some very smart and dedicated people in the Planning department. For about a dozen their career paths have been inhibited by the organizational mess and the leadership failure within the department; the place isn’t the planning mecca it could be.

Commisso aloneLet’s look at this again in a year and see if there have been any real changes.

Right about now one can ask: Where is the Work Force Plan that Tim Commisso will have to put before city council at some point in the near future. What we learn tends to come out of the Mayor’s office.

Salt with Pepper are the views, opinions and reflections of the Gazette Publisher

 

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