What will council set out to do during its next term of office? How soon will the public learn just how much the August flood is going to cost? Will it take a tax increase to get anything done?

backgrounder 100By Pepper Parr

November 18, 2014

BURLINGTON, ON.

 

We did elect them – well 34. 14 % of us did. In twelve days the newly elected council will get sworn in and determine what they want to achieve in the next four years.

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Full team was returned to office.  Now they need to get down to work.  Long list of tasks and opportunities.

Now that the significant seven have all been returned to office – what do they have on their plates for the immediate future and perhaps for the length of their term of office which officially starts December 1 when they are all sworn in. A stronger sense of enthusiasm and drive would be nice

Mayor Goldring explained to us during the election campaign that his first term was a “cleanup/setup” operation. He didn’t explain what he had cleaned up and he hasn’t clarified yet what he means by “set up”. We wait to hear that story.
A partial list of the issues facing this Council includes:

Airpark aerial used by the city

The city now has a site plan application. Will they approve what has been submitted and provide a permit?

Air Park – what does the city want to do with it? The city now has a site plan application in hand.  Once it is reviewed they will decide if a permit should be issued.  Bu what is the long term plan for the air park and is the city going to be able to get the cooperation it needs from Rossi?

Beachway – while the homes in that part of the city – just to the west of Spencer Smith Park are not about to be expropriated – city hall is reported to be beavering away at plans and designs that will come forward at some point in this term of office. One wonders when the public will be invited to the planning

Downtown development: Always an issue in Burlington – which in itself is telling. When we get a downtown one wonders if we will recognize it.

Football from Norh end - both streets

Major development opportunity in the Old LAkeshore precinct. Huge developments underway. How will it all play out during this term of office.

Old Lakeshore precinct – sometime this year work will start on the Bridgewater project that is to consist of a 22 storey condo, a seven story condo and an eight storey hotel. The hotel was to be open for the Pan Am Games but that won’t happen. Is there any thinking being done as to what the long term vision is for the properties between Lakeshore Road and Old Lakeshore Road and that part of the waterfront?

Ranked voting: Mayor Goldring kind of liked that idea. Let’s see when he moves to bring it forward now that the province has said it is to be permitted. The only member of the current Council who would have been impacted by Ranked Voting would have been Blair Lancaster – but if you look at who placed second and third – Lancaster suddenly doesn’t look all that bad.

Size of Council. Sometime during this term of office the Regional government will realign its seats and probably give more to Milton. That “might” mean a change in the number of seats Burlington has on the Regional Council. Right now Burlington has seven regional seats which makes every City Council member a Regional Council member as well. Half of a Council member’s income is paid by the Region

Governance: The Council whose term ends the morning of December 1st developed a good approach to Governance and devoted one meeting every quarter to looking and talking about the way they were running the city. There was some very productive work done at those meetings – let’s hope they are continued.

 

City General Manager scott Stewart doesn't take this smile to hospital meetings.

Does current  City General Manager Scott Stewart have a change in the title on his business card in the works – or will the moving trucks be getting a call.  Scott has kept the city running for the past six months.

 

A new city manager and an overhaul of the senior ranks. The task of hiring a new city manager is underway. Burlington is seen as one of the better city’s to run and we will be a popular choice for some of the better people out there. The last time this city hired a new City Manager they brought in Jeff Fielding from London who was energetic and had more new projects going than staff could keep up with. His decision to head for what he thought were greener pastures in Calgary put a lot of new ideas into a tail spin and staff had to scramble to work without the drive and focus Fielding brought to everything he did.

He fortunately had Scott Stewart beside him to execute on most of the ideas. Stewart was in the running for the job of City Manager last time and has his hat in the ring this time around as well. If Stewart doesn’t get the nod this time – you can expect him to be making an appointment with a moving company. The guy has been holding the city together for the past three months.

Citizen Engagement. Engaging the community is theoretically what every city hall is supposed to do. Burlington didn’t do all that well on that level. When Cam Jackson asked the late John Boich and former Mayor Walter Mulkewich to lead research into just what was needed to better engage the people who pick up the tab, few expected the report that was produced. Shape Burlington shook up many at city hall who felt they were unfairly picked on which was quite telling.

Some of the senior staff at the time felt they knew what the public needed and that the public didn’t need to be engaged all that much.

When the Shape Burlington report was released there was some hope – but a closer look at the people who served on that committee was revealing – Paul Sharman and Blair Lancaster were on the Shape Burlington Committee and withdrew when they decided to run for office. They were certainly not champions of involving the public during their first term of office but both got re-elected.

Code of conduct: While the Mayor likes to talk about how well this Council functions – in truth it doesn’t function all that well. The Councillors for wards 1 and 2 can’t stand each other – which makes it awkward for them because they sit beside each other.
Councillor Taylor, because of his experience, has a vision of the city and where he thinks it should go that is quite different than that of his colleague ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison who has served more than 20 years on Council.

These two old timers (that’s intended as a compliment) never did share a common view of the city and the direction it should take. Taylor tends to work from strongly held principles – for Dennison its all about business.

One would like to think they would serve as the institutional memory for Council and while they both know where all the skeletons are buried they seldom put forward much in the way of long term thinking for the city. Councillor Taylor has done some excellent work with his Mt Nemo initiative but that has yet to bear any fruit. The city is spending $200,000 to determine if a heritage district is worthwhile.

Water Street property. This Council is going to have to make a decision soon on just what they will actually do with that stretch of property between St. Paul and Market Streets. They did vote in principal to sell the property subject to the price to be paid and some legal questions that have to be resolved.

Mike Swartz, spokesperson for the other two property owners, commissioned a report on the evolution of the property including the arrangements that were made for the building of the breakwater and the infill that was put in place to prevent natural erosion.
The report includes the Swartz version of the legal arguments that hound this issue. A concern for many is that the report Swartz commissioned will be used by Council to justify their original decision but because it is legal in nature the city’s solicitor might advise that it be kept under wraps. It would appear that the document is certainly germane to the issue – it should be made public if it informs the debate.

The citizen based Waterfront Committee has taken issue with how this matter has been handled and asked for an investigation on the way the city handled this issue. The Municipal Act allows for any person to request that an investigation be undertaken respecting whether a municipality, local board, or a committee of either, has complied with the closed meeting rules contained within section 239 of the Act. Municipalities are able to appoint an Investigator for the purpose of examining these closed meeting complaints.

A request was made last June – at this point the city Clerk’s office said they have yet to get the report. Might be a can of worms with this one

Taylor with Black smiling

Georgina Black got Burlington to the point where it produced the best Strategic Plan possible under the circumstances. Will Council now move forward with a plan that has both a vision and drive?

Strategic Plan. The city put together a pretty good Strategic Plan in 2011. It was limited mostly because of the inexperience of the Council at that time. Given that it will be the same tribe creating the Strategic Plan for the next four years we can expect a shorter time frame to get the document done and a better final document.

Georgina Black of KPMG led Council through the 11 half day exercise. She realized part way through the second session with a group that consisted of both senior staff and council that there wasn’t what she called a BHAG – a big hairy audacious goal – something the city wanted to do.

Burlington doesn’t have a vision; it doesn’t have a goal – what it does have is many groups with goals of their own but nothing that the city can get a grip on and work towards.

Mayor Goldring did make an effort in the first half of his first mandate to pull people together and figure out what we wanted to be when we grew up. That event was as close to a disaster as you can get without being called a failure. The Mayor never produced a report for an event that came in at $50,000. It was all private sector money.

Official Plan: A critical document for the city. Frequently a bit of a yawn – not this time. Burlingtonians are demanding that we have a plan that we stick to and not change at every developers whim
Outstanding Development: Eagle Heights in Aldershot; Tremaine and Dundas in the north east end and Upper Middle Road at Burloak in the east centre part of town. All three are major development opportunities.

Economic Development: Where are we on this file? What defines us? Have we created a niche – something are better at than others and are thus attractive to corporations looking for a new location. Have we gotten beyond that tired phrase: the best mid-sized city in Canada?

This is a lot to get done in a four year term. Does this Council have the drive, vision and fortitude to achieve any of it?

 

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