Readers have an opportunity to give council the benefit of their creative thinking. Let’s help them do the job.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

February 11th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Yesterday the Gazette published an opinion piece on an opportunity for the current city council to take steps to ensure that Burlington got the kind of city manager it needs.

Mayor Meed Ward made a point of telling the public that council was going to take the time to get the job done right.

A Gazette reader commented as follows:

You have provided a good and thoughtful perspective on the current situation. There is a rare opportunity today for City Hall to be opened up, programs made understandable to citizens, performance made transparent and staff made both accountable and visible to the clients they serve.

ECoB debate at Baptist on New

Burlington has hundreds of residents who want to play a part in creating a city that fits the vision they have. This is one of the crowds that took part in a public meeting.

There are a number of readily available exemplars in the form of other jurisdictions that have adopted ‘open government’ reforms to make the bureaucracy responsive/understandable to the public, to greatly improve client service, to reduce unnecessary processes and boost overall function.

I would hope that this Mayor and this Council would look for best practices in other jurisdictions, as they exist quite close at hand – Toronto, Hamilton and Oakville to name just three.

Similarly, I would expect that Burlington might want to beg, borrow (or steal) the directly applicable expertise that is at hand, both in other municipalities and right in our own backyard.

However, to date (and it is early days), the signs have not been overly positive. Simple reforms such as staff contact listings, clear organizational charts and simple program guides remain on the ‘to do’ shelf.

ECoB Crowd Feb 22

This was a meeting for people interested in the process of getting elected. The desire for a better form of local government was there. The 2018 election did bring in a much different city council that can now tap into all the talent available.

More substantive improvements such as performance dashboards, responsive reporting and feedback vehicles and effective self-service portals are not even referenced. Indeed, the COB website remains one of the worst and most difficult to navigate of any municipality in the GTA (IMO). And recent staff additions appear to focus on communications and social media without any marked improvement in these areas either.

Time will tell whether this is the watershed Council many had hoped for. Early indications are not promising.

Let us not despair this early in the game.

Gazette readers have commented intelligently in the past; there is an opportunity now for those readers to do some research on just where they feel “open government” is practiced and set out some ideas that members of council can benefit from.

We look forward to publishing what we receive.

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1 comment to Readers have an opportunity to give council the benefit of their creative thinking. Let’s help them do the job.

  • steven craig gardner

    A bit confused. are we talking primarily about planning department at city or all departments all staff. As a 33+ year resident of Burlington ho is very activie on the volunteer world I have a very lot of involvements with city staff and various departments and I always find it easy to get to the right person, get the information I need. Staff are always extremely helpful, extremely friendly, extremely professional and extremely prompt. I would be surprised if anyone can do better. Perhaps people are not approaching in a friendly manner or are upset if they do not get the answer they want but here is one person who totally supports city staff in the numerous departments I have had dealings. Coming from Toronto Burlington is like a breathe of fresh air,

    Editor’s note: Something doesn’t pass the smell test here. When the word “extremely” is used again and again a flag goes up. Does Mr. Gardner not recall a conversation he relayed to me that he had with a staff member where they ended up hanging up on each other. It had to do with the plan to put up signs in the Nelson Park celebrating a baseball player. Was that an extremely satisfying situation Mr. Gardner?

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