Mayor pulls together 85+ business people to hear what works and what doesn't work at city hall.

News 100 blueBy Staff

March 28th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It was billed as a major part of the way Marianne Meed Ward was going to serve as Mayor when she addressed the Chamber of Commerce with her State of the City address in January.

She was going to listen; she was going to get right in the bull rushes and listen to the croaking frogs and learn what was working and what wasn’t working in terms of the way city hall serves the interests of the business community.

Early this morning some 85 people gathered around tables at the Waterfront Hotel and were taken through an exercise that was designed to pull out the pluses and the minuses of working with the bureaucracy at city hall.

The Mayor knew there were some horror stories, she hoped there were some success stories – and she wanted to hear them first hand.

People were not able to stand up and talk – these were business people gathered around a table with a facilitator in place to help the process move forward.

The crowed was asked to set out the challenges faced when working with city hall; then they were asked to talk about the successes and then asked to put some ideas on the table.

There were no verbal reports from the 12 or so tables – the notes were gathered up and would be made public once the mayor’s office had gone through the contents of the notes people wrote.

Mayor Meed Ward brought ward 2 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith in to help her – Galbraith is the only member of council who has significant experience at the small business level.

Red tape red carpetBilled as a Red Carpet – Red Tape event designed to get at the problems, the event was described to the Gazette as a “registered” business people only event when we began to take notes.

We were edged out of the room, nicely by Victoria Al-Samadi, Mayor’s Chief of Communications & Strategic Advisor

We got back in when the Mayor was doing the wrap up and explaining that the event was the first of several phases to get at the root of whatever there were in the way of problems.

The next step is meetings with specific groups who would be invited to take part: Small business; groups that work with the city on behalf of membership, the Downtown Business Development Association, Chamber of Commerce, parking advisory group; big business corporations including manufacturers and finally the development community.

These will be on an invitation only basis.

The Mayor intends to create a Task Force that will look at the issues that become evident and task them with taking part in preparing a report that will go to city council sometime in June in time to include any spending that might have to be done in the 2020 budget.

Meed Ward made two significant comments: “If we find that Yes – there are problems, we want to move on them quickly. If there aren’t any problems – we want to move on and not waste any time.”

Red Tape - red carpet crowd March 28

It was a decent crowd – the plan was to cap it at close to 100 people Three of the city Councillors were evident. Angelo Bentivegna has been working the audiences at every event he attends – there is an agenda there.

 

That is certainly the language the business community wants to hear.

There are always people who complain about the pace at which things get done at city hall. The Gazette is aware of a vinyl record pressing company that had to wait months to get permits while more than $5 million worth of equipment sat shrink-wrapped on the floor of the space they had rented.

Then there was the dry cleaner who had to wait six months to get the permits he needed when he opened a dry cleaning operation.

Dry cleaning involves the use of chemicals – but there many dry cleaning operations – didn’t the city have the staff with some experience, asked the owner?

When he opened the second dry cleaning store he found he had to wait just as long. There were no lessons learned at city hall.

Then there is the developer who said to us just this morning when we were arranging for an interview: “Moved to Burlington permanently for our offices just in time to be subjected to a council that shuts down our business and a mayor who twice uses unauthorized videos of our site to stand on her soap box and pump up over-intensification even when it doesn’t exist. Nice warm welcoming feeling for a company that pays and has generated hundreds of thousands of tax dollars annually.”

Our guess is that he won’t be invited to sit on the Task Force.

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7 comments to Mayor pulls together 85+ business people to hear what works and what doesn’t work at city hall.

  • Alfred

    Josie. Interim by-law that freezes downtown development with no plan B in place to replace it creates uncertainty for the property owners and more importantly the new businesses that could otherwise relocate their businesses there. No one seems to know what is going to happen in the downtown area. Why would anyone want to invest there. I did notice all the commercial space in the high rises built appear to be rented out. That would be called certainty How can a property owner rent out there property when the City can’t even tell them what and when they can build there. City wanted 12 stories The OMB gave ADi 26 stories ouch! This reminds me of an airport that is having problems landing planes because of incompetence. Then wondering why planes are flying in circles overhead waiting to land. The passengers then blame the pilots??. The developers are asking what can we build there? It appears the City can not give them an answer that will not be overturned if appealed.

  • Josie

    Alfred, would the stores with blacked out or boarded windows possibly be at a location owned by developers by any chance? Are they perhaps at a location with an active application? Or maybe the owners bought the property and would only offer short-term rentals while they work on their application? Detroit City? Really? Downtown has one of the highest occupancy rates in the city!

  • Alfred

    Was anything worth while determined by this meeting??? The airwaves appear to have gone silent. Went for a walk downtown yesterday evening . Shocked by the number of stores with boarded up or blacked out windows. Looks like the City is dying. It’s like a clean Detroit City. Lots of rentable space. But no businesses. Oh yea that’s what the meeting was going to fix. Don’t hold your breathe. It appears that many businesses were not welcome at this meeting. Apparently there will be more meetings. Who is invited or not I quess is still to be determined. Very confusing or deliberately so. Nice photo-op anyway, smile.

    • Lynn Crosby

      The boarded up stores are because the developers who amassed the properties for their condos benefit from not renting them out and letting them look exactly as you describe, so that people say exactly this: oh look, downtown is dying, we need condos. Makes no sense and we had a very nice downtown before these developers did this and destroyed it.

  • Alfred

    Burlington is probably the most over regulated,time wasting and costly in terms of trying to get housing to market Municipality in Ontario. Therefore the builders and developers have the absolute right to be upset. This problem is City wide in the low density areas as well. Not just in the downtown core. Burlington would rank lowest in Ontario for the housing industry. If it ranked highest then the nimby’s would have something to complain about. That just does not appear to be the case.

  • Joe Gaetan

    Why cap it or control the process? I have seen this movie before.Future turnout will signal if entrepreneurs feel they are genuinely being heard.

  • steven craig Gardner

    All i am reading is red tape events for business people which is great, but when does the average joe or josephine get a similar event to discuss what works and dopesnt for them as they pay taxes too and keep the businesses in business. Has this been held and I missed it?
    There are a number of groups at city hall i have dealt with that I would call world class, best in category my fear is some business may not like some of these and change for the worse for average citizen may happen.

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