Meed Ward leaves the city council meeting with her head held high - bloodied but not bowed.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

November 14th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

She did what she always does – hammers away at the point she wants to make.

421 Brant

If there is going to be any grass near the now approved 23 storey condominium the city is going to have to lay sod in the Civic Square.

During the lengthy city council meeting Monday evening Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward asked each of the delegations what they thought was an appropriate height for the condominium tower that has been proposed for the north east corner of Brant and John Streets – across the street from city hall.

Meed Ward knew what the answers were going to be – there wasn’t a single delegation that was for the 23 storeys that were recommended by the Planning department. The developer had asked for 27 storeys.

Councillor Shar,man with his back to the camera debates with Councillor Meed Ward during Strategy Planning sessions. Both are strong contributors to Council and Committee meetings

Councillor Sharman with his back to the camera debates with Councillor Meed Ward during Strategy Planning sessions. She doesn’t back away from a difference of opinion. Neither does he.

Meed Ward has always been opposed to height in the downtown core. She has a following and represents the views and feelings for the city that many want to retain.

The Mayor sort of shares her view – he just isn’t as good as she is at making her point and sticking to it.

Meed Ward is the only member of Council who consistently asks questions of delegations and staff.

She’s not shy about saying she doesn’t understand something. She sees her role as that of getting the answers she needs and doing the same for her constituents.

Monday evening was a disappointing night for Marianne Meed Ward on several levels – she didn’t make as much as a dent in the position four of the members of council had taken.

She is never going to get a change of mind or a change of heart from Councillors Craven or Sharman.

They had every reason to be smiling. Councillors Meed Ward and Lancaster pose with five members of the Friends of Freeman Station after the Council meeting that approved the entering into of a Joint Venture that would have the Friends moving the station and taking on the task of renovating the building.

Councillors Meed Ward and Lancaster pose with five members of the Friends of Freeman Station.

She will get a smidgen of acknowledgement from Dennison. She and Councillor Lancaster have never been close – except for the exceptional work the two of them did in saving the Freeman station.

Meed Ward sits beside Councillor Taylor – if anyone was going to side with her philosophically it would have been Taylor – he didn’t budge.

So – what does Meed Ward take away from the decision? She certainly keeps her followers happy – are there enough of them to elect her as Mayor in the October 2018 election?

If Burlington is going to elect Meed Ward as Mayor they want to ensure that they elect people who share some of her views – or this city will face four years of political grid lock.

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25 comments to Meed Ward leaves the city council meeting with her head held high – bloodied but not bowed.

  • Phillip

    A big thank-you to Marianne. You did what a councillor should do–engaged your constituents and represented them! While I have had my reservations about you as Mayor following the school closure controversy, I do believe you are the best candidate to effect change in the local government. And as for the “imperial 5” that supported this violation of the zoning on Brant Street, I would hope they will be soundly defeated in the next election; we need councillors who represent their constituents, not the lobbyists, bureaucrats, and special interests.

    • Hans

      While I agree that the school closure farce created a problem for MMW, IMO it affected her constituents and it was her duty to become involved and advocate for them. The other council members should have done the same, instead of ducking a critical issue.

  • Hans

    IMO having MMW for mayor would be a huge upgrade for Burlington. She has the right values and an impressive intellect.

    • Pauline

      But MMW is unable to build consensus or deliver anything. How could this individual accomplish anything as a mayor? She does not appear to have accomplished much so far except to alienate herself from Council.

  • William

    Taylor has become a one-note johnny. His primary focus in the last couple of years is to protect the rural area – though most of it is already covered with greenbelt protection. He believes the urban area needs to absorb as much growth – no matter how egregious in his mistaken belief the urban/rural divide is a zero sum calculation.

    He’s become less effective – descending into petulance and parochialism, choosing to side with the council nasties because he’s lost his chutzpah. Time he packs it in.

  • Pauline

    For the life of me I cannot understand the support that Councillor Meed Ward receives. She is the most divisive councillor and appears to be completely incapable of developing consensus. Everything is negative. Everything is bad, unless she likes it. If her position on 421 Brant was as great as her followers seem to think, why was she unable to sway Council? Seems clear to me.

    421 Brant looks like a great project to me and I hope that it is a quality development that we can all be proud of.

    • Dayna

      Divisive how? My personal experience with her, though limited, has demonstrated that she is more thoughtful and engaged than any other councillor in Burlington.

      It is refreshing that she actively takes a stand on issues and engages citizens with their concerns. Other councillors give broad excuses or pat responses to avoid making any concrete statements. The other councillors are also clearly in the pockets of the developers.

      If the numerous delegations and a petition could not sway the council, why would you put all the pressure on MMW to do it? If anyone should bear the burden of convincing the other councillors not to support this development, you would think it would be Mayor Goldring. Unfortunately, it seems apparent that councillors often arrive to meetings with their minds made up, so that they are not interested in listening to or engaging with the delegations who appear.

      Editor’s note:
      I have been following this city council since 2010 – of late I don’t attend city council meetings – I watch the web cast.

      I have difficulty with the comment that members of this council are “in the pocket of the developers”. They may give the developers much of what they ask for – and most (the exception is Meed Ward) have accepted donations from developers. The donation limit is $750 – that doesn’t buy all that much influence. They aren’t particularly imaginative or creative but to say they are in “the pocket of the developers” just isn’t true – not that I could see and I don’t miss very much.

    • Stu Parr

      Well Pauline, we ‘live in hope’ don’t we? Or, at least, we used to before the majority of City Council decided that they knew better than their constituents and turned deaf ears to those they represent. MMW, is the only councillor who seems to be always open to contrary opinion and is respectful of dissent. She does not hide behind the empty meeting protocols of City Hall that discourage engaged discourse and the ready exchange of opinions. I am a resident of Ward 3 and would trade my Councillor for her in a heartbeat. At least, I know where she stands from issue to issue. Mr. Taylor, for example, seemed to have had a remarkable change of heart over 421 Brant St. from the time of his latest ward meeting to the time of the vote. But, then again, he’s not all that concerned with the affects of intensification because little of it is occurring in his ward.

      I believe that the only ethical course of action for Council to have followed here would have been to make downtown intensification/development/tall buildings near the waterfront an issue for the election in October. Then they could learn what the people want or don’t want in a very decisive and indisputable way.

  • Jack

    Pauline has hit the nail on the head – while this Councillor may represent the noisy folks in her riding, she does little to work with council. Common sense ruled the day!

  • joe gaetan

    Obviously Jack and Pauline were not at last nights meeting. Few of the councilors took the time to ask any questions. If they did it was to trip up the presenter. View the proceedings and then ask yourself, how in this universe could her questions could be viewed as divisive? Consensus requires an open mind and there are are two sides to that coin. The real issue here, is not how many storeys the building should be, its about the fact council voted against themselves and our current Official Plan (12 storey max),and then new Official Plan (17 storeys max) full stop.

  • bonnie

    Philip, couldn’t agree more with your above comments. Marianne fights for the citizens and listens to their concerns which is often not the case with the other council members. It certainly is time for a change and Marianne needs our support to make this happen next fall…fight on noisy folks!

  • Pauline

    Is it not the role of the Ward Councillor to shepherd support for the constituents of their Ward to support their vision? The apologists really must stop. I feel like I am reading Breitbart – all innuendo and conspiracy. Council’s decision on 421 Brant Street represents an epic fail for Meed Ward. She cannot deliver.

    • Stu Parr

      Pauline:
      I sense an animus that goes beyond this immediate issue – “epic fail”, really? Let me be clear with no “innuendo” and no “conspiracy” theory. This vote by Council represents their failure to present a compelling and sustainable vision of the downtown to which the overwhelming majority of residents can subscribe. It also represents an unnecessary and unsupportable rush to action in the absence of a new, approved official plan that has gone through the necessary consultation and approval process. It is arrogance of the worst order. Although I am personally opposed to 421 Brant St., I can accept the will of the people when it is obvious that they have spoken. Not so in this case. The development is aberrant (both to existing and proposed official plans), the vote is premature and the people’s voice has either been ignored or it has not been demonstrably followed. This vote is only the most recent example of a City Hall (both Council and senior bureaucracy) that has lost its focus, its sense of service and its identity as steward of the public trust.

    • Tom Muir

      Pauline,

      This page, like the Dennison section, is filled with more of your annoying and attack-ad bitter nonsense. The other people here see that too.

      Meed Ward did exactly as you say; shepherd support for the constituents of their Ward to support their vision? She did just that for her constituents, and you would know this if you kept track of reality, and not Breitbart-like copy you are writing, and then attributing to your attack targets.

      It’s you talking innuendo and conspiracy, and your comment here is filled with inconsistent statements that don’t follow from your initial statement.

      Meed Ward is a knowledgeable woman, with her own views gleaned from her ward and city-wide, working in an environment that doesn’t want to hear them. I for one want to hear what she is saying in her newsletters and at Council.

      But she can’t decide for Council though, any more that all delegates who spoke that agree with her can. Council majority is the power, so no failure on her part there. The 5 to 2 vote consensus was to approve the build, so how can it be that she didn’t deliver, and what?

      Many people think she provided a point of view that they agree with, and she delivered that. I expect it is not all to waste, and we move forward.

      You are visibly Breitbart-like, so you will benefit by stopping projecting it to others when you are the one on attack. Annoying, but so consistently the same, and mostly not credible, I am learning to just see who it’s coming from and not take it too seriously.

  • Stephen White

    Marianne Meed Ward displayed courage, guts and class last night. She deserves a lot of credit for the way she conducted herself, and she showed dignity under pressure. Ward 2 residents are well served by her.

    Regrettably, I can’t say the same for others in attendance. I listened to all the delegations and was incredibly impressed by the remarks offered by Greg Woodruff, Tom Muir, Joe Gaetan, and several others whose names I didn’t catch. All the delegators spoke with conviction, passion and reasonableness. In the face of such overwhelming and compelling arguments to limit the size of this and other downtown developments City Council, and their flunkies in the Planning Department, opted to side with the developer.

    I have lived in Burlington 42 years. Over that time I have been to several Council meetings on different issues. I don’t say the following lightly, and not without considerable thought: this 2014-18 Council is absolutely the worst I have ever seen! Their capacity to engage, lead and create a unifying, compelling vision for this City is totally lacking. Any of the speakers I heard last night could do a better job representing Burlington’s interests than most of the incumbents.

    Serious consideration needs to be given to a couple of things. One is the creation of a municipal political party to run a slate of candidates to replace the present incumbents. The second is establishment of a City-wide ratepayers’ association to provide a compelling, discernible and viable opposition to the so-called “experts” in the planning department whose cute and cozy relationship with developers is both palpable and unseemly.

    Thoughts?

    • Pauline

      Stephen White – Fake news – sounds like you read too much Breitbart. You use of adjectives and name calling says it all. If this is the most consequential planning decision that this or any recent Council has made as Meed Ward supporters suggest, Councillor Meed Ward has failed.

      • JQ Public

        Pauline you seem to operate under the mistaken impression that one councillor carries the vote, and if that one councillor does not “win” on his/her issue, then he/she is a failure.

        Check the Burlington Ward map. There are six Wards and one Mayor. Each have a say and each have a vote. When most of them decide in their own minds that they don’t agree with a councillor, they vote as such.

        It’s called democracy Pauline, as flawed as it often seems in our municipality. Labelling people failures is neither nice nor helpful. Please comment respectfully or not at all.

        • Pauline

          It is Meed Ward’s job to develop consensus and support for her positions that are of significance to her ward and her constituents. She has failed to deliver.

          • Tom Muir

            Pauline,

            You keep repeating yourself, and not hearing what others are saying to you. THat’s what attack ad lingo is.

            As I said above, she did exactly what you said her job is. If she had the power, the ward consensus and support she developed would have allowed her to deliver refusal of 23 stories.

            But she is only one vote. Don’t you get that?

            I think she would have supported 17 stories if that was in the realm of possible consensus. But it was not put on the table, even when it was asked for a debate on.

            She clearly asked ever delegate what they would suggest. She was the only one that did. For her, it is not all or nothing.

            Is 17 not enough?

      • Stephen White

        Sorry to disappoint you Pauline but I do not read Breitbart, and I don’t subscribe to fake news. What I do however is take an interest in my community, and try to offer something in the way of constructive suggestions and feedback. I also sign my full name to my posts because, unlike folks like you, I have the courage of my convictions and I’m not afraid to stand up and speak my mind.

    • Tom Muir

      Stephen,

      Good comment from someone who was there and could see the mood of the room. Provided full name too.

      As far as I’m concerned, this meeting of Council confirmed and proved that they are behaving in just the way I described in my delegation.

      In fact, every delegation except the developer said basically the same things.

      I said, and I quote after the fact because it so truly represents what happened:

      “From the evidence that I have been easily able to gather, on this matter, you are, most of you, not representing the citizens that elected you. You appear to have been immunized against the opinions of your constituents.”

      “It is their city, but you do not appear to be hearing them. They are telling you loud and clear that they don’t want these building heights/density, with the associated problems, and they want to know why you are not enforcing the existing laws.”

      “And adding insult to injury, city and Council can’t wait to hear the residents comment on what they think of the new OP, bylaws, and Mobility Hub ideas before voting to go far beyond anything in those documents for this location.”

      “The draft plan ideas are still just that – not vetted, not discussed or debated, and have no approval and are therefore not policy relevant or legal. Given this, the Committee approval here makes a farce out of the formal consultation to come before it even happens.”

      “To me this erases all doubt that the city, planners, and Council don’t respect or really care to hear what the public thinks of these plans, and wants for what is their city.”

      “Instead of waiting, as is legitimate and appropriate, decisions are made to go over and above even the 17 story limit proposed, but not approved, for this site in the new Mobility Hub Precinct ideas.”

      “The existing limit is 12, the proposed is 17, but the City Manager and his planners, want 23. And Committee voted 5 to 2 in favor.”

      “Is that how Council wants to be seen as representing the people? In a way that drives cynicism?”

      Apparently yes.

      Beyond a doubt, the majority of Council proved that, and this is my take home message.

      It was like we were not even there – no questions, no comments, except a little opportunistic disrespectful sniping.

      Councilor comments at the end never mentioned anything residents had put before them and just rationalized their votes.

      Everyone there could see and feel this, and the boos, call outs of shame, and other sounds showed this clearly.

      Citizens clearly don’t matter to these guys.

      I’m in for a ratepayers group. Who’s bringing the rope?

    • Lynn

      Stephen: I like both your ideas in your final paragraph!

  • Lynn

    These were my thoughts on the meeting.

    I was struck last night, sitting in the room, by the atmosphere. The public was not welcome. The councillors did not want to hear from us. There were 12 delegations. 11 were from the public, all against the proposal, all saying they want the city to uphold their own rules. When the mayor called the 11th delegate up, he noted that her name did not appear on the list because she had registered after it had been printed, but she had registered within the deadline so she would be speaking. Presumably one would think she was the final delegate then. No, the 12th delegate was the developer. I wonder how that happened. The developer then essentially mocked that 11th delegate in his remarks, much to my amazement. He also had the ability to speak to specific things other delegates had said. Of course they could not rebut, and none of the citizen delegates had this opportunity with him.

    Incredibly, with the exception of Marianne Meed Ward, all the other councillors and the mayor had zero questions for any of the citizen delegates. Zero comments in fact. Marianne thanked each one for coming and asked them what their preferred option would be. The only exception to this was that twice that I counted a citizen delegate was asked a question by someone in a way that was condescending and meant to make them look foolish. The woman who presented the petition was treated by one councillor as if she was a witness in an important murder trial and he was trying to trip her up in her testimony. The councillors woke up for the 12th delegate, the developer, and had lots of questions for him. Just before the vote, each councillor had a chance to speak. There was an undertone of mockery in many of their comments, directed at the delegates and the public. Many councillors specifically named delegates who had spoken and shot down their opinions – how convenient to do this at the end, when they couldn’t rebut, rather than when the delegate was still up there to answer questions.

    At one point a delegate quoted something that a councillor had said at the November 1 meeting. It was so absurd as to be laughable. So we laughed. We were chastised by the mayor for laughing. Yet the distinct impression I had as I walked out was that the councillors (other than Marianne of course) were laughing and mocking us the entire night. They also did a good job of ensuring that people will not want to delegate to this bunch again. We need a new council. Everyone in Burlington, no matter what your opinion is on this subject, should be very concerned with what is going on here. We deserve better. We either need 7 Marianne Meed Wards, or Marianne and 6 other good people.

    Stephen White – I like your idea of a ratepayers’ association.

    • William

      This is heartbreaking to read, while incredibly insightful. The city sees the public as a pesky problem that needs to be managed. They extend privilege to the developer that they fail to provide residents. This will only change when new people are on council – who have the energy and understanding that it’s the community who define Burlington’s destiny, not staff. Staff’s role is nothing more than using their expertise to deliver on the community-led vision.

  • Ian

    Very objective article.

    Marianne Meed Ward is one of the few Councillors that at least understands, questions, and addresses the issues facing Burlington residents. She also has the common sense to know her area of expertise and when to call upon help and advice from others – a rare commodity on the current BCC

    She speaks for a lot of the electorate that have become TOTALLY disillusioned with the closed minded ‘comfortable’ long-term do nothing ‘machinery’ that needs to be awakened to the real issues that face Burlington

    She WILL surely be the next mayor and we must make sur that her elected councilors in the various Wards will also share her forward and open thinking

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