Looking Ahead

2015 crystal ball

Time to make some bold (well, boldish) predictions for Burlington.

Here’s my TOP-4 list of WHO and WHAT to watch locally in 2015….

#1 – MANAGING A BUMPY ROAD

big question mark

Council remains constant, but other leadership positions remain in constant flux.

You’ve needed a program to keep track of many top jobs at City Hall.

For example: since 2010, there’s been 3 City Managers (as shown below – can you identify more than one?) plus 1 to follow, and 2 Chiefs of Staff plus 1 to follow! Ouch.

Of all the people in Burlington to watch in 2015, my pick is the next City Manager. That person will play a pivotal role in what happens, and how things move forward at City Hall during this critical time in our city’s history.

In addition to other qualities he/she brings to the corridors of power there, let’s hope he/she works productively with Council – and stays for at least one or two terms of Council, especially with a new Strategic Plan coming soon.

Watch for other new staff appointments, terminations/retirements and resignations.

#2 – ROUND 2 WITH WARD 2 COUNCILLOR

marianne meed ward

While Mayor Rick Goldring should be the centre of attention on Council, Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward will increasingly steal that spotlight.

Meed Ward has always been an excellent communicator, and she’s also a seasoned politician now. She’ll keep stirring Council’s pot vigorously and regularly, especially when her Ward constituents want something (and perhaps to attract more voters for an already much-anticipated mayoral bid in 2018).

However, the main event causing sparks at City Hall will probably continue to be friction between her and Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven (and others tag-teaming with him).

Catch all the action in person, tune in TVCogeco or check out the City’s webcasts. Body language says so much.

Unlike the relative calm of previous Goldring years, and unless Meed Ward can become less adversarial and more mayoral in nature, 2015 seems likely to be filled with more divisive public posturings and positionings.

For the sake of Burlington and Council, I sure hope that prediction is proven wrong.

#3 – SINGING THE BLUES, OR SEEING RED

mike wallace endorsement of next pc leader

After 70+ consecutive years as a Tory stronghold, we elected a Liberal MPP in 2014!

Who could have predicted that for Burlington?

In truth, a lot of people – particularly those who noticed local Liberal candidates nudging closer and closer to victory in recent elections.

Having said that, will voters elect a Liberal MP in 2015? Will our city catch the wave of a new kind of Trudeaumania with a young local candidate, Karina Gould, full of new energy and big ambition (with meetings in local pubs and other community hubs)?

Nope. Not this time anyway.

MP Mike Wallace is savvy, organized and determined.

Burlington is changing, as reflected by the 2014 provincial election. However, that sudden and surprising change seems to have helped the entire Council get re-elected in the ensuing 2014 municipal election. Voters chose stability and experience.

And that will also be a factor for likeable Mike in the 2015 federal election.

#4 – PIER-LESS

pier in action

For my final choice, I could have predicted Burlington surging with unprecedented pride and support for the new Joseph Brant Hospital – or even said the Burlington Gazette will continue to be exposed as Pepper Parr’s pulpit for his personal political preferences (I might have said it, just not easily or without spitting!).

Either would have been an easy choice. Too easy.

Instead, I’ve gone with the ill-fated and much-lambasted Pier.

Yes, it went millions and millions of dollars over budget as a legacy/vanity piece (with little function or purpose, beyond being a tourist attraction and pleasant walk), and turned up the volume on public engagement (a positive outcome). Those days are over.

Here’s my boldest prediction: no one will say a disparaging word in public about the Pier in 2015.

Of course, there may be some revelation about the final legal costs. People might still refer to it as a tragic historical footnote of incredible political hubris and, just maybe, someone will mention the high maintainance costs going forward. But that’s it.

Silence will signal Burlington has learned some lessons, and turned the page.

This should help all of us start to write new chapters for our community, by focussing better on what really matters now:

*** aging infrastructure (which involves many inter-connected concerns)
*** aging population (with the related issues of health care, poverty and affordability)
*** worrisome intensification trends (primarily by the waterfront, and the impact on the character of older neighbourhoods)
*** lacklustre economic development (a now-revamped BEDC should make rumblings in 2015, and get tangible returns on that investment in 2016)

Okay, there you have it for 2015.

New City Manager. Councillor Meed Ward. MP Mike Wallace. The Pier.

Who or what is on your TOP-4 list?

p.s. Since I’ve raised a few opinions here related to political parties, and in order to offer full disclosure, please see the second half of the following post about my own partisan leanings….https://brianheagle.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/yesterday/

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All in the details

Why is this man smiling?

jack d oct 2014

That’s the look of a decisive victory for Jack Dennison!

The Ward 4 race in this municipal election, like everywhere else in Burlington, was won by the incumbent – and by a significant margin.

Click on the following link for a PRECISE BREAKDOWN OF VOTING in Ward 4….

http://cms.burlington.ca/AssetFactory.aspx?did=32468

The numbers reveal that our current/future Councillor won handily at every poll.

What was the most curious result, and perhaps the most telling?

He had a solid 52% of the votes cast at the two polls with the greatest number of eligible voters – Port Nelson (Roseland) and John T. Tuck (Roseland Heights). Why is that somewhat surprising? After all, he lives in the area.

Well, you may have heard that many of his neighbours are very upset with his Ontario Municipal Board appeal to sever his own lot (as reflected by the strong opposition mounted by the Roseland Community Organization).

He pushed back hard against their wishes, and the City staff’s recommendation. Yet that factor did not fan the flame of an ‘anti-Jack’ wind during this election.

jack d property

In fact, Roseland residents didn’t get out to vote much (30% voter turnout) – compared to the entire City (34%) or even the top polls in Ward 4 (35-38%).

Was it complacency, apathy, fatigue or inevitability (a sense that Jack was assured another 4 years)? Something else?

As you look northward in Ward 4, the power of this incumbent was evident. He received well over 60% of the votes at those polls.

Simply put, after 20 years in office, the Jack Juggernaut rolls on for another term!

His experienced leadership should continue to deliver beneficial results overall for our community. True, like other politicians, our Councillor has attracted his share of public controversy and criticism.

However, he’s always responded to critics with unapologetic candour, a rare quality for politicians. And while you may not like his style, nor agree with all of his decisions, Jack Dennison has worked diligently to represent Ward 4 and Burlington well for two decades – especially in terms of trying to protect the financial bottomline for taxpayers.

We should expect more of the same, which may best explain his re-election.

Okay, now that the election smoke (and hot air) is clearing, what lies ahead?

I set out my views in a recent article in B CITY MAGAZINE (starting at page 37)….

Did you happen to catch this week’s #TheIssue show on TVCogeco (see below for our broadcast team’s “selfie” taken on election nite), which airs every Tuesday nite live at 8 PM? Yes, that was a shameless promotion.

cogeco election team oct 27 2014

I also expressed the view this Council may suffer from a serious malady – VISION DEFICIT.

If you don’t have a clear target in your sights, how can you take intentional steps towards hitting it? Vision is not about nice platitudes or blurry generalizations!

It’s all about seeing the details.

More about VISION DEFICIT, and the need for Council to focus better, in a future blog post. In the meantime, let’s wake up after a sleepy election. Let’s open our eyes wide.

Even WIDER than that, please!

eye wide open

Stay vigilant and get more engaged over the next 4 years – a critical period for bigger, longer-term decisions at City Hall. As a community, we need to keep a watchful eye on what’s going on, and speak up about where Burlington is headed.

One week left…are you ready?

We’ve all had it. That dream about sitting down for a big exam – and suddenly realizing we forgot to study!

Let’s hope it’s NOT the reality for Burlington voters on Monday, October 27th.

That’s when you and others cast the final ballots in this municipal election (unless you already voted online, or at an advance poll).

***Spoiler Alert #1: Here comes a shameless self-promotion.

If you’re tempted to doze off now, and perhaps not even bother to vote, I wrote an article which should jolt your system.

b city article

The above is the final proof for my contribution to B CITY MAGAZINE. The Fall 2014 edition comes out this week in select homes and businesses. Copies can also be picked up at Tourism Burlington at 414 Locust Street (downtown near Lakeshore Road).

***Spoiler Alert #2: Here come our community’s top priorities explained in that article.

Burlington is changing. You can question many things, but not that.

We need to decide, right now, what matters most to us. Based on that list, what does our collective vision of the future look like? 2014 is an absolutely critical election to choose the leadership team at City Hall aligned with that vision.

What lies ahead?

Most people would not consider our biggest issues to be, in a word, ‘sexy’ or ‘provocative’. We’re not talking about building more legacy pieces like a pier, hospital, performing arts centre or giant steel orchids. Nor is this is about contemplating a larger Council, new Wards or moving City Hall (not bad ideas, mind you).

giant orchids on upper middle

It’s a handful, though, in many ways. My top-5 list:

1. Economic development
2. Intensification
3. Aging population
4. Aging infrastructure
5. Affordability

What’s on your list?

My top-5 items are inter-connected and urgent, especially since they’ve received scant attention. So far. Time is running out, and the countdown is on. Let’s get Burlington’s priorities, and future, on the right track.

See my article in B CITY MAGAZINE for more!

Otherwise, if you need a last-week/minute primer, click on these helpful links….

Burlington Council = http://www.insidehalton.com/news-story/4731525-burlington-votes-meet-your-burlington-city-council-candidates/

Halton Regional Chair = http://www.theifp.ca/news/municipal-election-2014-regional-chair-candidates-answer/

HDSB Trustees = http://www.insidehalton.com/news-story/4895997-burlington-votes-meet-your-burlington-candidates-for-the-halton-district-school-board/

HCDSB Trustees = http://www.insidehalton.com/news-story/4896161-burlington-votes-meet-your-burlington-candidates-for-the-halton-catholic-district-school-board/

And, finally, closer to home for your research: the campaign websites set up by our Ward 4 Councillor candidates….

Carol Gottlob
http://www.carolgottlob.ca/

Jack Dennison
http://www.jackdennison.ca/

Doug Wilcox
http://votewilcox.ca/

Please, take a good look at all of the candidates, and choose wisely.

Burlington’s future depends on your vote.

Hear ye! Hear ye!

Tuesday, October 7 at 7 PM. Save the date now!

That’s when there’s a debate going on in Ward 4 – Paletta Mansion at 4250 Lakeshore Road (between Walkers and Appleby).

All of the candidates for MAYOR and WARD 4 COUNCILLOR will be there!

Will you?

debate audience

All-candidate meetings are rare opportunities to see candidates come together in one place to discuss and debate local issues before a public audience.

For them, it’s about reinforcing key messages and positions on many neighbourhood, city and regional issues.

For us, it’s about asking questions, listening to answers – and getting better informed before voting.

This special event is co-hosted by the Roseland Community Organization (RCO) and Roseland Heights Community Organization (RHCO).

And there is absolutely no cost to the public.

There will be a donation box for the ongoing and vitally important efforts of Burlington Flood Relief, if you’re able and so inclined to give.

burlington flood relief 2014
http://www.burlingtonfoundation.org/Burlington-Flood-Relief-Home

Don Baxter of the RCO, and yours truly on behalf of the RHCO, visited the venue today in preparation for next Tuesday nite.

Below is your advance look at the room, showing the moderator’s podium and the main tables set up for the panelists and candidates (that’s Don checking out a chair).

paletta preparations

Here’s the format….

6:30
– Doors Open.

7:00
– Meeting begins.

One moderator (Maureen Tilson-Dyment).
Three panelists (Tina Depko-Denver of the Burlington Post; Joan Little of the Hamilton Spectator; Pepper Parr of the Burlington Gazette).

7:00 to 7:30
– Opening statements from three Mayoral and three Ward 4 Councillor candidates (maximum 3 minutes each).

7:30 to 8:30
– Discussions and debates.

4 sessions of 15 minutes each, alternating between Mayoral and Ward 4 Councillor candidates (first 15 minutes of questions from panelists directed to candidates for Mayor; next 15 minutes for Ward 4 Councillor candidates; and so on).

8:30
– “Fishbowl” questions.

The moderator will randomly draw from a “fishbowl” of questions from the public (before the meeting, by posting a comment here or emailing bheagle@fdhlawyers.com; or during the meeting, by bringing a written question or submitting one at that time).

9:00
– Meeting ends.

paletta park debate location

To help you get ready, here’s some homework.

The candidates and their websites (if any)….

*** BURLINGTON MAYOR ***
mayoral debate 2014

Anne Marsden (no campaign website)

Peter Rusin
http://rusinformayor.com/

Rick Goldring
http://www.rickgoldring.ca/

*** WARD 4 COUNCILLOR ***

Doug Wilcox
http://votewilcox.ca/

Jack Dennison
http://www.jackdennison.ca/

Carol Gottlob
http://www.carolgottlob.ca/

HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE NEXT TUESDAY NITE!!

Fast and furious at City Hall

clock at 2 o'clock

Friday, September 12, 2014 at 2 PM.

That’s the final deadline for municipal candidates to officially enter or withdraw.

And the race to the starting line is a sprint now!

Suddenly, the Burlington mayoral race has 3 registered candidates in less than 24 hours – less surprisingly, Ward 4 has yet another change for the Councillor’s job!

Here’s the (current) line-up for mayor….

Incumbent RICK GOLDRING will be challenged by newcomer PETER RUSIN and perennial candidate ANNE MARSDEN. She’s put her name in for Regional Chair, Mayor (registered then withdrew in 2010), Ward 2 Councillor, and MPP.

Only Rick Goldring has a website – which might indicate how unprepared the other two hopefuls are for a short campaign. When I briefly met with our current Mayor today, it’s clear that he’s ready to roll with his team.

As for Ward 4, there’s 1 new entry with newcomer DOUG WILCOX, and a renewed vote-splitting factor. That will favour incumbent JACK DENNISON, and should concern the other newcomer CAROL GOTTLOB.

Doug Wilcox lives outside the Ward, which is permitted, but nothing else is provided by his registration today (no website or photo), nor by a cursory Internet search.

Let’s hope Mr. Wilcox introduces himself and his ideas to Ward 4 voters soon, and isn’t just taking up space on the ballot.

Who said municipal politics is dull? Not that you’ll want to camp out at City Hall to see who else registers.

Tomorrow may bring more breaking news, as the clock ticks much closer and louder towards 2 PM….

A time for leadership

burlington flood makes headlines

Where were you during the Great Flood of 2014?

As for our Mayor, it was impressive and reassuring to see Rick Goldring take charge immediately and confidently during this local crisis. That’s what leaders do.

rick goldring press conference about 2014 flood

He was highly visible in the media, and took to the streets to speak with people.

http://www.chch.com/flooding-hits-home-burlington-mayor-goldring/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=flooding-hits-home-burlington-mayor-goldring

The Mayor lives in Ward 4 – and let everyone know this emergency was also highly personal. His home was hit.

That’s his basement shown below in the first photo. The second photo is of MP MIke Wallace’s basement – which reinforces that nature certainly doesn’t play favourites, whether with politicians or anyone else. We’re all in this together.

mayor goldring's basementmp wallace's basement

It seems Ward 4 was at the centre of this storm.

I’m not aware if our Councillor Jack Dennison has been on the scene. No messages (e.g. I’m on his email list), nor Tweets or Facebook posts (e.g. if he’s away on vacation). But I’m certain he is or will be very active connecting with residents and businesses.

UPDATE: After the above comments were posted, the Councillor emailed residents late Thursday evening about Monday’s flood, with useful information and tips communicated by the Mayor: http://www.burlingtonmayor.com/city-burlington-august-4-storm-flood-update/

I’ve heard about other Ward Councillors knocking on doors to get the message out about 3-1-1 (apparently thousands dialed that emergency line at the Region, no doubt overwhelming the system) – while offering a personal hand to help.

There are already many heart-warming stories of Ward 4 neighbours checking on and assisting each other, during and after the deluge.

Here’s another….While I stood next to a first responder at Tuck Creek, and it raged by us on Monday nite, he mentioned praying on his knees that no one gets hurt – especially children, seniors or anyone with a disability or who lives alone.

I’m proud to say, Burlington, compassion lives here!

It’s wonderful to see how we can reach out, and break down the walls of insular living. Too bad it often takes a community-wide ordeal.

To my knowledge, there have been no reported deaths or major injuries as a direct result of the flooding. Of course, there has been an incredible amount of property damage, financial cost and emotional anguish. That aftershock lasts long after the waters recede.

This week reminds us not only of our humanity, but also of another stark reality. One that needs to be looked at closer, funded better, and acted on much quicker.

BURLINGTON IS AGING.

We have an aging POPULATION, a subject which has received slightly more attention in recent years. The downpour also clearly exposed our aging INFRASTRUCTURE.

Both factors are critical to Burlington becoming a liveable and caring community on a truly sustainable basis.

We can’t control the weather. However, we can control how we react to it – and how we prepare for the next potential storm (remember last winter’s ice?) or other extreme infrastructure-rattling events.

That’s similarly true for what some observers refer to as the coming “Silver Tsunami” of our aging population.

silver tsunami stats in canada

There are no easy or simple fixes to combat an aging population or infrastructure.

For example: flood control improvements (to be fair, an affordable modern design/system would have lessened but not prevented the flooding here). That area alone involves storm water and sewage management systems, gradings around old properties, etc. But it’s only part of a more complex and bigger problem in our great city.

Roads, traffic and transit must also be thrown into the infrastructure mix, as we seek to find workable inter-connected solutions.

Most importantly, though, how will we afford what needs to be done in Burlington?

Municipalities have limited means to raise money beyond property taxes, and City Council’s borrowing power is currently self-limited to 12.5% of total revenues. Development charges? Build-out is over, build-up is here.

However, residential growth isn’t happening – Burlington will be the slowest growing municipality in the GTHA over the next 15+ years.

What about commercial growth?

Economic development must be a renewed top priority, and be successful. In particular, we need to finally get tangible returns on the City’s significant long-term investment in the Burlington Economic Development Corporation.

The BEDC is being transformed and led by the Mayor’s former Chief of Staff, and a former Ward 4 Councillor candidate, Frank McKeown. His impressive credentials and no-nonsense manner certainly indicate he’s the right kind of leader for the job.

frank mckeown bedc executive director

During this election year, let’s hope overriding and troubling issues around AGING are raised LOUD AND CLEAR by voters, incumbents and other candidates.

Time is of the essence! Let’s really start to get at viable ideas to deal with those concerns.

That’s what leaders do….and that’s also what leading communities do.

The universe seems to be sending Burlington a message. Are we listening?

Yesterday

tim hudak face

paul mccartney yesterday and today

If you listen carefully, Sir Paul McCartney’s ditty was sung today by many Progressive Conservatives in Burlington.

They’re longing for yesterday (and yesteryear) when – feel free to join in – all their troubles seemed so far away.

June 12, 2014. Definitely one for Burlington’s history books.

jane waving good-bye june 12 2014

That’s Jane McKenna not only campaigning on election day, but also waving good-bye.

To less than 3 years at Queen’s Park. And to 70+ consecutive years of an unblemished Tory-blue winning streak! Yikes.

So, WHAT HAPPENED??

Is this one of the ‘Signs of the Apocalypse’? Maybe it was mass delirium. Or, some kind of computer error.

Consider these slightly more reasonable possibilities…..

A much stronger local Liberal candidate.

eleanor mcmahon and local fire fighters

Burlington’s changing urban landscape and population.

changing urban landscape

Another ill-conceived campaign from the PC central office (led by Tim Hudak stubbornly and loudly pushing misguided messages and misleading facts).

downcast tim hudak after election

A shrinking local PC base of support during recent years – with little inspirational leadership and vision, nor fundraising power (a Cam Jackson strength).

bpca gathering

This lawn sign got more attention than Burlington’s NDP or Green candidate. And nearly as much support!

stupid is

Probably, it was “all of the above”.

Time for the PCs to rethink, reload and rebuild – both locally and provincially.

However, that’s also true for the Ontario Liberals and NDP in this age of hyper partisanship, and public mistrust.

Which gives me an idea.

Why can’t Burlington lead the charge/change for a different and better way of doing party politics? Starting with our next MPP, Eleanor McMahon.

eleanor mcmahon at work

Eleanor has impressive experience working in and with government and community-based organizations, plus she seems to genuinely understand and appreciate Burlington, demonstrating a warm and authentic manner with people.

Those qualities may encourage and set the pace for other local parties and political types to follow suit in how they treat each other and, maybe (just maybe), how they can work together on occasion to serve our great community.

Burlington strives to become an even more compassionate, inclusive, collaborative and progressive community in every way. Why not in party politics too?

I urge all of us to be patient and supportive of our MPP in her early days and months, and try to stay engaged as the next few years unfold.

If she has too many scripted moments with snarling partisan attacks, or refers to herself in the first person? Takes out a false front-page endorsement again in the Burlington Post? Well, those are not healthy signs for real change.

Yesterday was about many things – including a fresh start and, yes, a dose of hope.

Let the healing, and a new era in Burlington politics, begin.

new mpp hugging

Over to you now, Sir Paul….

[p.s. Full disclosure….]

The Globe and Mail newspaper reported in 2013, “Today, somewhere between 1 and 2 per cent of Canadians are members of political parties.” I’m one of the very few.

bdbh political memberships

I’ve always been a “small c” conservative or so-called “Red Tory”.

When Ontario Liberals courted me several years ago, I took a closer look. For a relatively short time, I felt they best represented my kind of moderate, progressive conservatism in Ontario politics. And they did. But not for long.

Shortly before the eHealth scandal was exposed – which began an endless parade of government overspending and undersight (my word for the opposite of oversight) – I realized a “Liberal” dose tends to be too much in the long run. Especially when good intentions lead to more government.

I exited that valuable learning experience, gladly returning to the PC/Conservative fold, even putting my toe in the candidate pool:

HEAGLE (PC Nomination Letter (June.13.2011)_Page_1

http://www.russ-campbell.net/2011/07/brian-heagle-withdraws-nomination-as.html

Today, Progressive Conservatives need to make our way back to the political centre.

Bill Davis and many others have understood how Ontario can survive and thrive when government works in that space (which seems to have been officially vacated now by the left-leaning Wynne agenda). Regrettably, Tim Hudak took us too far away.

Hopefully, once the election dust clears, the post-Hudak PCs will eventually return from the political wilderness by the next election – which means appealing to more people, especially in forward-looking urban areas. Like Burlington.

That’s full disclosure – if you were wondering about my political tendencies or biases when reading this blog!