Merry Clarity!

Life can get pretty complicated and frayed, especially around this busy time of year.

The path forward isn’t always clear, but time still marches on (often much too quickly).

Nevertheless, as 2016 nears its end, local residents seem to be in step about one thing.

Life in Burlington has changed, and it continues to change at an unrelenting pace. Of course, that change can be good or bad!

Your view may be swayed by when and where you’re asked.

You could be stuck in traffic with a case of indigestion from New Street’s road diet – or enjoying a calming stroll around one of Ward 4’s serene neighbourhoods.


Locally, we have much to appreciate and anticipate; and other things to complain and worry about. Skillful observers and communicators like Terry Cooke manage to cut through all that chatter about change – often with the turn of a phrase….

“Long-term change takes time”.


That powerfully blunt insight is taken from a recent message delivered by Terry as President and CEO of the Hamilton Community Foundation (HCF).

He took the pulse of HCF’s current strategic plan. It got a thumbs-up from supporters.


I wonder how his questions to gauge HCF’s progress might apply to Burlington, and how citizens would respond.

Like HCF or any other community-based organization, City Hall is a place which should be building community with a long-term focus and discipline.


1) How is our long-term planning? How are we actually doing right now?

2) Does City Hall understand our evolving community needs and priorities?

3) Is our current “Group of Seven” Council setting the right direction, goals and flagging course corrections for over 175,000 people?

Often, though, one simple question will produce a profoundly clear answer.

And who doesn’t want clarity at times like this?


As my holiday gift, here’s your chance to experience clarity, in 3 seconds or less….

Boldly going where Burlington hasn’t gone before

Welcome to 2016!

The most important 12 months in Burlington’s 142 years of existence.

Who’s led us down that path? The Mayor? Council? Good guesses, but you’re wrong.

It’s this person.

james ridge on the street

While he may look like another mild-mannered citizen out for a walk, his influence on our city could be invaluable, and lasting.

One more hint. In this photo, it’s no coincidence he’s cooking something with our Mayor, and at his right hand.

james ridge at chamber event

Say hello to James Ridge.

james ridge formal

On the job as Burlington’s City Manager, and working below the public radar, since March 2015.

That low profile shouldn’t continue, as Council shifts into high gear now to finalize and approve a new (and overdue) 25-year Strategic Plan .

I offered the following background and prediction in this blog for last year….

“….since 2010, there’s been 3 City Managers (as shown below – can you identify more than one?) plus 1 to follow!

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.”

Were you watching? Maybe you read about him.

When interviewed by the Burlington Chamber of Commerce, James Ridge made a revealing confession.

He’s “a bit obsessed with doing better than a slogan-on-a-wall strategic plan” and wants a “compelling and achievable plan to guide the city for the next 25 years“.

Uh, James, don’t you know Burlington only puts out Strategic Plans covering a Council’s current term of office, filled with sweet-sounding generalities?

So what happened? His influence and obsession helped change this cover page….

burlington strat plan 2015-18

to this one (note the years)….

stategic plan 2015-2040

No easy accomplishment – considering this is the same Council which, like its predecessors, drove forward by flipping on cruise control and belching out another cloudy short-term Strategic Plan in 2011.

Personally, I happily applaud this unexpected decision and new focus, which I most recently called/hoped for in this post….

What’s the path forward?

A draft plan has been floated to the community, with a few weeks of public consultation. Click here for the plan and details:

If you skipped over the above and didn’t click, please do it now. It’s worth the time to read. I’ll still be here when you return.

Okay, what do you think of the draft? The process? What’s missing? Is it clear enough?

What about this Council’s ability to listen and lead when approving the final version?

Put another way: do you trust these 7 people to represent your views and our collective vision for the next 25 years?

Happy smiling faces of council

The City Manager has impressively pushed this initiative forward – but it’s up to Council to steer Burlington in the right direction.

This is our last chance as citizens to step up, and be heard by City Hall before the new Strategic Plan is launched.

Please, clearly and loudly voice your ideas and concerns.

There are a lot of questions to be addressed. Generations of Burlingtonians will depend on the answers.

Welcome to 2016 – the year of living with unprecedented responsibility, and the transformative opportunity to truly shape our future.

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….

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 =

Halton Regional Chair =

HDSB Trustees =

HCDSB Trustees =

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

Carol Gottlob

Jack Dennison

Doug Wilcox

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

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….

– Doors Open.

– 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).

– “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; or during the meeting, by bringing a written question or submitting one at that time).

– Meeting ends.

paletta park debate location

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

The candidates and their websites (if any)….

mayoral debate 2014

Anne Marsden (no campaign website)

Peter Rusin

Rick Goldring


Doug Wilcox

Jack Dennison

Carol Gottlob


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….

What’s it going to be, Burlington?


That option has surged into the lead in my recent poll (53.85% at the time of this post).

Admittedly, the poll is highly unscientific and unreliable. What political poll isn’t?

But does it reflect some indication of frustration with the choices in Ward 4? Or, maybe, voter fatigue? Apathy?

This Friday is the last day to register or withdraw as a candidate. And there’s a race in every Ward for City Council.

In fact, there are 10 candidates in Ward 6!! Councillor Blair Lancaster must be wondering what all the fuss is about (as a reminder, she only won by 125 votes in 2010).

I’ll leave Ward 4 and other predictions until next month. However, I wish to officially call this election result now….


You read it here first.

goldring clan celebrates heagle prediction

Okay, subject to a last-minute shocker, there’s no race to unseat the current Mayor.

*** UPDATE: The day after posting this blog, PETER RUSIN registered to run for mayor. My prediction stands.

In the past, if a mayor has been acclaimed in Burlington, it’s meant a lot. That is, a lot less people vote.

1976 = 59.4% – Mayor’s race (Mary Munro wins)
1978 = 28.1% – Mayor’s race (Roly Bird wins)
1982 = 33.0% – Mayor (Bird wins)
1985 = 20.0% – MAYOR ACCLAIMED (Bird)
1988 = 28.1% – Mayor’s race (Bird wins for 4th straight term!)
1991 = 37.2% – Mayor’s race (Walter Mulkewich wins)
1994 = 35.3% – Mayor’s race (Mulkewich wins)
1997 = 34.9% – Mayor’s race (Rob MacIsaac wins)
2000 = 22.7% – MAYOR ACCLAIMED (MacIsaac)
2003 = 16.6% – MAYOR ACCLAIMED (MacIsaac)
2006 = 34.8% – Mayor’s race (Cam Jackson wins)
2010 = 37.6% – Mayor’s race (Rick Goldring wins)
2014 = ____% – MAYOR ACCLAIMED (Goldring)

When the Mayor is acclaimed, voter turnout is less than 20%.

Average voter turnout is underwhelming anyway – barely over 32% for all general elections in the past 40 years.

That’s an abysmal and shameful record. We can do better. We should do better.

Here’s my question to you, Burlington. What’s it going to be in 2014?