Burlington newspaper folds – again

Where do you go for local news, opinion and gossip?

Pepper Parr’s online “Burlington Gazette” was often the go-to place.

burlington gazette

I say “was” because the Gazette “is” no more – according to its latest headline….

This version of the Burlington Gazette is dead. Someone else will have to fight the good fight.

Regrettably, there’s no story beyond the terse message that “the Burlington Gazette is dead” – just readers speculating and commenting about its demise.

Those moderated comments need to be approved for posting. Presumably, Pepper is lurking in the background with his hands on the editorial controls.

pepper parr and gazette gear

Why the silence? That would be very uncharacteristic of Pepper.

When the Gazette disappeared for the first time in 2014 (for less than a month), I offered sincere words of praise. https://brianheagle.wordpress.com/2014/04/28/burlington-newspaper-folds/

Pepper succeeded at achieving his main objective of narrowing the information gap between City Hall and citizens. For that, Burlington owes him much. Thank you, Pepper, and congratulations for a truly remarkable achievement.”

Two years later, that tribute to his valuable role as a dedicated volunteer and community observer still rings true, and louder.

This isn’t another CHCH TV closing up shop, then re-opening with reduced staff and a new focus. Pepper is the Gazette.

Perhaps, the Gazette will rise yet again.

But is this another hiatus? Or, is it a much-deserved retirement?

Will someone else pick up the Gazette’s torch?

Time will tell. And I’m confident Pepper will too.

*** UPDATE *** After posting the above, and as expected, Pepper revealed what was behind his decision to shut down the Gazette….

Readers ask – … is there not some way to continue the endeavour?

*** ANOTHER UPDATE *** Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. Pepper now claims the Gazette is not dead – despite what he told everyone in a headline. It’s just resting.

Click on the following link for more….

Spectator columnist makes us look better than we are – but thanks – there is more to come on this story.

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Ranting and raving for results

As summer cools down, and Burlington gets back to business as usual, it feels like the right time to warm things up with a rant.

Many of us are focussed on the economic turmoil in Greece, China and elsewhere. The federal election is making us stare into the abyss of a prolonged Canadian recession.

So let’s pause to look within. Let’s talk about our local economy.

How’s it look to you?

To assist, click on the following map – and envision the current stores, offices and industrial-commercial-institutional buildings…..

land use in burlington

On a positive note, there seems to be roughly the same number of businesses here now, as existed a few years ago. Maybe even two decades ago.

On a negative note, repeat the last sentence.

Where’s the growth?

Why is there so much un(der)developed non-residential land, including along what City Hall likes to call the “Prosperity Corridor” (click on the photo below)?

prosperity corridor

And what about the re-invented and re-energized Burlington Economic Development Corporation leading the charge for change?

Before I try to respond to those questions, we should start with BEDC’s business partner and primary funding source, the City of Burlington.

City Hall has a lot on its plate.

a lot on plate

Having said that (and sorry for making you groan about the photo), a menu of long-term priorities is relatively short.

It basically includes two I‘s – Intensification and Infrastructure.

Add one AHAffordable Housing.

However, I believe the top priority and weakness to address for our future is, as you’ve probably guessed, ED (not the medical condition) – Economic Development.

That term is really code for job creation.

We need to intentionally target and bring in BIG business, those with 50 or more employees.

A big-business-centred approach broadens the entire tax base in significant ways. It will help pay for and support so many other short and long-term needs locally. It will also attract smaller businesses, and benefit those with roots already here to grow.

At present, a meagre 6% of employers in Burlington have 50 or more employees, while a whopping 65% of business establishments are self-employed.

Keep in mind too, non-residential properties cost much less than residential for a municipality to service. Healthy margin, healthier bottom line.

Dive into a lot of data, bring out lovely charts and brochures. No matter how you slice and dice it, BIG business will be the BIG difference-maker for Burlington.

job creation

As a longtime business leader asked me this week, “When was the last time a really big business came to Burlington?

Well, it was a long time ago (hint: the name begins with “G”, and you can email your answer to this quiz to bheagle@fdhlawyers.com).

None of this big-game hunting will be easy or quick!

No doubt, though, time is of the essence. We’re arriving late to the modern ED game.

After enduring a long no-growth drought, and falling behind our GTHA neighbours, the pump needs to get primed immediately.

Success will depend largely on the leadership, effectiveness and relationship of BEDC and City Hall – including how they collaborate with the Burlington Chamber of Commerce to advocate for our community as a premium destination for businesses.

A few details about how that synergy might work in the long run, despite some initial hurdles to get over…..

*** BEDC ***

bedc logo

As mentioned earlier, this is an organization with a renewed sense of purpose.

Regrettably, BEDC is off to a slow start after an extensive study of its past problems, followed by a 2014 relaunch (the vision statement claims BEDC will “operate at the speed of business“, which is great if you get paid by the hour!).

It’s been weak at communicating (when was the last time you heard or saw anything from BEDC?). And its optics are not helpful either.

That is, while preaching change, inclusivity and transparency at the “new” BEDC, some initial decisions suggested otherwise.

An 11-person Board was selected with only 2 female directors (apparently BEDC is going with a new “old boys club” model) – not to mention that several directors, including the Chair, don’t work in this city; the website provides scant to no information about the corporation (no particulars about its corporate relationship to the City, no listing of all of the executive officers, no profiles about directors other than job titles, no indication if directors are volunteering or paid (as originally proposed), etc.); and 4 out of the 11 directors are employed by the City.

That last observation means City Hall has a strong voice at BEDC’s table, wielding a weighty 36% of the vote. Political and business types usually have very different natures and agendas, which can be counterproductive in a boardroom setting.

city council at table

Perhaps, the Board’s composition will lighten up on the number of City folk, as it evolves over time.

In terms of looking forward, BEDC is compiling “Burlington Vision 2025”. Here’s the latest on that front….

http://www.bedc.ca/economic-vision-2025

bedc business vision 2015

While visioning is an important exercise and guide, this due diligence process could lead to paralysis-by-analysis (the consultant’s dense “economic baseline” report alone would be enough), and blurry goals.

But it’s still early days.

With his entrepreneurial drive and impressive skills, new Executive Director, Frank McKeown, seems the right kind of take-charge leader to grab hold of BEDC’s steering wheel, once the accelerator is pressed down. A shift in gears can’t come too soon.

Frank McKeown of BEDC

*** CITY HALL ***

Can the current administration foster an improved local environment for business?

To start, City Hall will need to better co-ordinate its efforts with both BEDC and the Burlington Chamber of Commerce to help cleanse and truly refresh our stagnant economic development pool.

Those groups must clearly define their roles to avoid duplication or conflict, and work closely together.

To that end, Council’s new “Strategic Plan 2015-2018” will need to embrace and fold in BEDC’s “Burlington Vision 2025“. Will the new City Manager, James Ridge, ensure that happens and position himself as a pro-business champion?

It will be interesting to find out what transpires later this year, when both documents are finalized and rolled out….

http://www.burlington.ca/en/services-for-you/strategic-plan.asp

Hopefully, unlike in the past, there will be no soft and mushy words with wobbly measures to track progress.

Let’s see a solid straightforward plan, followed by real results. The future of Burlington’s local economy will depend on both.

Here endeth my long rant.

Actually, rather than a rant, a few prayers may be more appropriate at this point.

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!!

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?

Burlington newspaper folds

burlington gazette

Pepper Parr’s online newspaper, Burlington Gazette, has ended its nearly 4-year run:

http://www.burlingtongazette.ca/gazette-ceases-publication

Last year, this blog conducted a highly unscientific poll, yielding these results:

Clearly, Pepper engaged many local residents with his highly informative, candid and often entertaining way.

As Councillor Marianne Meed Ward posted online after yesterday’s announcement, he performed a vital service as an “independent voice on matters of public interest“.

And Pepper provided all that time, energy and expertise – as a volunteer!

pepper parr

Pepper succeeded at achieving his main objective of narrowing the information gap between City Hall and citizens. For that, Burlington owes him much.

Thank you, Pepper, and congratulations for a truly remarkable achievement.

Now what happens? Who or what will step into the void?

That question is especially relevant as Burlington heads into election season at the municipal, provincial and federal levels (but not necessarily in that order).

Well, until someone or something else emerges, my poll results indicate part of the answer may involve spending more time in local donut shops.

*** UPDATE: After first posting this blog, Pepper advised me that while the Gazette has folded its tent, for the time being, it may not cease to exist permanently. Once his health situation is addressed, Pepper will reconsider his decision in due course.

*** ANOTHER UPDATE: Seems you can’t believe everything you read in the Gazette – even about itself! The Gazette broke the news that it would cease to publish on April 27. However, due to popular demand, it was resurrected by Pepper on May 16.

Welcome to the future

inclusivity advisory committee

It was selected in 2013 as the #1 best place for new immigrants in Canada.

A snapshot of its social profile taken nearly 10 years ago, shows:

* Over 1 in 5 (22%) of its residents were born outside Canada.
* Only 1 in 10 belong to a visible minority group. That percentage has likely increased.
* 52% of residents are female.
* Average age is 40. That’s higher than the Canadian average.

Yes, I’m referring to Burlington:

http://www.moneysense.ca/best-places-for-new-immigrants
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burlington,_Ontario

At present, Council members do not reflect many of our key demographics, including our growing diversity.

Let’s take a look at the faces of our leadership. Here are the elected municipal officials in Burlington and Halton….

city council 2014

regional council 2014

Do you see a problem, or not? If you do, and it’s important to you, what can or should be done – if anything?

Difficult and delicate questions. However, they should be asked. Especially during an election year.

In terms of the demographic figures above, here’s how the current Council compares to them. As a reminder, we’re talking about 7 individuals representing over 175,000:

* 2 were born outside Canada (to my knowledge). That’s higher than the 2006 survey.
* None belong to a visible minority group.
* Only 2 are female (29%).
* Average age is far north of 40.
Our aging population is well-represented.

City Hall has made efforts to focus on social inclusivity in recent years, such as establishing a volunteer advisory committee in 2008.

I was part of that initial group, acting as Vice-Chair. Its well-meaning mandate continues to be profoundly underfunded and as a result, very limited in making a deep impact (although it does have a nifty logo, as shown above).

We should not rely on government alone in any event. It’s up to you and me.

The subject for this post came, in part, from a recent online comment made by a 2010 candidate (I was also one of those).

She referred to our city still having a “country club attitude” which is “very Burlington”. I took issue with that. Based on my own experience as a “newbie” and “unknown”, I also offered simple ideas for anyone to encourage/support “newbies”, “unknowns”, “youth” in the local political arena (e.g. social media to help promote them).

It’s very early, but other than a young candidate in Ward 4, registered candidates don’t seem ready to break the mold of past elections. Burlington is changing, but perhaps Burlington isn’t ready for political change. Not quite yet.

In terms of a Council representing its community, what matters most?

I believe they must genuinely know and connect to the interests of virtually all residents at the Ward and City levels; and they must have proven leadership and team-building skills to make meaningful long-term contributions (I put listening, caring, integrity at the top).

Ultimately, for me, it’s about community experience and vision.

As we move forward, does Burlington need a more diverse and inclusive Council with broader experience now? My answer is yes. Will it happen? Let’s see.

2014 is the year to make your voice heard, your support known and your vote count.