Good Evening ladies and gentleman here in the council chambers as well as those watching on TV Cogeco. Welcome to the inaugural meeting of the 2010-2014 Burlington City Council.
This is a very special time for the members of your new Council, our families and friends, and the citizens of the community. The citizens of Burlington have given us the responsibility to act on their behalf and to represent their interests and I am greatly honoured to represent you as Mayor for the next four years.
I would like to acknowledge the special guests we have here tonight:
- Halton Regional Chair, Gary Carr. Halton MPP Ted Chudleigh.
- We have 3 former mayors with us tonight.
- Lloyd Berryman – mayor from 1965 -1967 and his wife Brenda Berryman.
- Mary Munro – mayor from 1976-1978
- Walter Mulkewich – mayor from 1991-1997
- Representatives of the 4 unions that are involved with the city.
I also want to acknowledge and thank:
- The Barbershop Quartet – La Majano – Larry Rootes, Marv Hatelt, Jack Seedhouse and Norm Riddle for singing O Canada.
- The Venerable Dr. Steve Hopkins from St. Christopher’s church for doing the invocation.
- The Honourable Mr. Justice C. William Hourigan for commissioning the Declarations of Office.
- Rob Bennett and the World Renowned Teen Tour Band for their involvement tonight.
- Drum Major’s – Ben Gaffney, Jessika Dack and Jeff Freeman
- Fanfare Team – Tyler Leece, Jackie DeMelo, Chris Harrison and Tory VanDanburg
- Honour Guard – Alie Penn, Erin Nault and Rebecca Fields
I would like to start by congratulating all of my Council colleagues for their success in the election campaign. Election campaigns are a great deal of work and require considerable sacrifice not just on our part but also by the volunteers and family members that are so important to this effort. I would like to express my thanks to those volunteers that helped any candidate on this campaign for their contribution to democracy and would like to thank the family members here to night for the time they have given, and I offer further thanks in advance for the family sacrifices they will make during the coming term. Thank you for lending your loved one to the city for the next four years.
I would also like to congratulate all those candidates that participated in the election and contributed to the discussion and debate that is so important for our community.
Tonight, my elected colleagues and I have taken an oath to truly, faithfully and impartially exercise our office to the best of our knowledge and ability. Each of us now has the privilege and responsibility to work on behalf of the community for what is best for the citizens of Burlington.
We are also responsible for the stewardship of the City of Burlington. It is our duty to work through staff to ensure that the City of Burlington effectively delivers the appropriate services to the community and that these services are sustainable.
Municipal and regional government impacts the citizens of the community in a very direct way. The water we drink, our wastewater and storm sewers, our fire, emergency and police services, our libraries and cultural centres, our parks and recreation programs, our transit system, our building codes and land use by-laws, our garbage and snow removal, and the roads we use are all delivered through local government.
Municipal government has more and more become the voice of the people. City Hall is on Brant Street not in Ottawa or Toronto. Citizens look to their local representatives to advocate on their behalf on issues that are the responsibility of other levels of government as we all endeavor to build a healthy, affordable, inclusive and complete community.
Throughout the last term of Council, Council and staff heard from the citizens of the community that we were not fulfilling our role as the “voice of the people”. If we don’t listen how can we speak or act on someone’s behalf? We all are committed to improving in this area.
Our new Council has changed considerably. We have three new members of Council and a new Mayor. The citizens of Burlington sent a clear message during this election that they expect Council to operate differently, to be more open and accountable, to be more respectful, to listen and work with the community more closely, and to finish the Pier.
We have issues to deal with but on the whole we have a great City to live in. Our City continues to prosper and our challenges are manageable if we choose to work together and talk with each other rather than at each other.
My campaign included proposed actions and goals. I am committed to bringing these to Council to work towards their implementation.
To address these goals as well as issues and opportunities that each Councillor hopes to resolve for their Wards, we will have to be more cooperative than last term and to work with a genuine approach toward consensus. Consensus seems to be viewed by some as a soft position. I don’t see it that way.
I think that we are responsible to work hard to achieve win – win results. This requires openness, listening, compromise and an understanding of how the issues impact the citizens of the community. We will all have to be a little less rigid as we try to do what is best for the community.
I am very optimistic that we can achieve this. I look at the Team assembled at Council and am excited by what everyone brings to the table.
I am looking to our veteran members to continue to provide leadership to Council and mentorship to our new members.
- Councillor Taylor is in many ways our historian. He has as much enthusiasm as he did his first day on Council – 22 years ago. Or almost.
- Councillor Dennison brings his valuable business perspective to Council and he does so very consistently.
- Councillor Craven has a valuable social conscience and he has unique ability to summarize and focus council discussion.
Our new Councillors also bring a fresh perspective and experience to Council.
- Councillor Lancaster has operated her business for decades and has been active with community agencies.
- Councillor Meed Ward (now the youngest member of council) was at Council and committee meeting very often in the last 2 years. She truly is a community activist and brings with her real passion for the issues and concern for citizens.
- Councillor Sharman has accomplished much in his short time in Burlington and brings extensive professional experience in accounting and business process.
As we continue to build positive relationships with each other, I would like to quote hockey player Rod Gilbert who said, “The best team doesn’t win nearly as often as the team that gets along best.”
TONIGHT I want to start a conversation with the citizens of the community, my colleagues, staff, and community stakeholders about what we want for our community today and in the future. We are all in this together and all have a shared responsibility.
So how does a good conversation start? Sometimes it starts with an opinion, sometimes with an observation, but more often with a question. Your Council has already started with a question. Over the last two weeks I met with each of my colleagues and posed the question – On Dec 1, 2014 what has to have been accomplished for you to believe that this term of Council has been successful?
The answers to this question are as diverse as our community. But, as lengthy as the list of answers is, there is much in common, and I believe that this Council has the responsibility and the willingness to debate, discuss, listen and make positive decisions for the community. As Mayor, I can promise you that although you may not agree with all the decisions made, you will know that we listened and you will understand how we reached a decision.
So, what has to happen for Council to believe it has been successful four years from now?
- Trust has to be re-established in our community.
- Council is committed to dramatically improving the relationship between itself and citizens. I believe that over this term, many if not all of the recommendations of the Shape Burlington Report will be addressed and implemented in some form. Individual Councillors are looking at alternatives to connect with citizens of the wards they represent. I support this. Trying different things and learning from each other will help us find new and better ways to work with citizens.
- Council is committed to working more closely with citizens and will start with the Strategic Plan for this term of council with particular emphasis on identifying through consultation the desired outcomes and priorities of the community.
- At the Regional level, a Citizens Panel has been approved as part of the Regional Strategic Plan Process and we will consider this as a tool for the Burlington Strategic Plan.
Part of regaining Trust with the community will also include more transparency and improved access to information.
- The trust and working relationship between Council and Staff must be improved.
- Council does not do the work of delivering services to the community. Nor do we directly manage the activities. That is the role of Staff and the City Executive. Council cannot micromanage Staff and expect to hold them accountable at the same time. We have to change the culture, have clearly defined expectations and empower staff to deliver. We need an always improving, more flexible and more sustainable organization.
- As our community matures, as the growth pattern changes, as our demographics change, our City has to adapt and change as well. Change can cause fear and anxiety and we do not want that.
- I believe that we can move the organization forward to meet the changing needs and live within our means. Change creates an opportunity to learn new ways of doing things and to improve personally and professionally. I believe our City Staff is up to this challenge.
- We must focus, prioritize and live within our means.
- Various members of Council have spoken about improved measurement, accountability, saying no to certain initiatives and getting value for money. Council must be more focused, must set more specific priorities and deliver recognized value for money.
Stephen Covey, Author and Speaker said:
“The key is not to prioritize what is on the schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
- We have to start acting this way. There is general agreement with Council members that we cannot continue to increase taxes at the rate of increase experienced last term. I have proposed a cap of 10% over the term. I believe that Council will support initiatives that will result in achieving this objective.
- Much of Council is in agreement that we need to better focus and prioritize to achieve this. Council has to practice what it preaches and work more cohesively to resolve issues and come up with solutions that work.
- We must address our Downtown and Waterfront Plans head on, reach consensus, and not have a skirmish over every future action.
- There continues to be questions about the Downtown and Waterfront plans. For many reasons Burlington has a plan to increase intensification in the Core and to create a more urban environment. We also want to protect and enhance our unique Waterfront.
- Many of the questions that arise in Downtown discussions also arise with in-fill projects. Citizens have difficulty understanding the Official Plan, zoning by-laws and design guidelines and it appears to many, or at least to those affected, that the City never follows them.
- We have to improve our interaction and communication with citizens and do a much better job in this area.
- There are many benefits to intensification. An urban lifestyle option, a lower CO2 footprint, protecting our rural lands and increased viability of public transit are a few that come to mind.
- We must continue to maintain and improve the quality of life in Burlington.
- The day to day running of the City and the services provided requires constant review and change.
- Parking, cycling options, how we deal with environmental concerns, how we create an elder friendly community for our aging population, how we are inclusive to all groups, how we maintain our roads, program our traffic signals and run our bus routes are all critically important to our citizens.
- Working within our means, I believe Council will constructively work to improve many of these areas. I have proposed a community based service review in the first year of Council to help us focus our efforts and address the concerns of our changing community.
- We must continue to work to support our local business economy and to attract jobs to Burlington.
- Team Burlington which includes the Burlington Economic Development Corporation, Burlington Hydro, the Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Burlington and the City of Burlington will continue to drive Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
- More jobs means stable housing prices, shorter commutes, less poverty and opportunity for our youth.
- McMaster and Charles Sturt Universities and the Halton Learning Centre bring additional support and opportunity for our local economy.
- We must also continue to support and encourage our Business Improvement Area’s in the Downtown and Aldershot.
- I am committed to continue the tradition of support for Team Burlington and our local economy and envision an even stronger emphasis on Entrepreneurship and Innovation to help drive our City.
- For the benefit for our children and grandchildren, I will continue to advocate for a more responsible approach to environmental issues.
- We have made strides in the last 4 years in addressing environmental concerns however we must do more. Most new city facilities will have some unique features that will result in a smaller ecological footprint during the construction and operation of the buildings. I would like to be in a position to mandate this approach on all new private and public buildings but we are unable to because of the Provincial Building Code. It is important that we continue to advocate to the province for a 21st century building code. Air quality challenges, climate change and future energy sources are issues that municipalities can have an impact on.
- The City of Burlington needs to continue to lead by example and encourage citizens to lower their ecological footprint by consuming less fossil fuel based energy. Burlington Hydro’s Grid Smart City Initiative is an example of a local municipality trying to make a difference.
- Population Growth in the Greater Golden Horseshoe Area will necessitate alternative transportation solutions, not just roads. It is important that our long term vision and planning incorporate improved public transit and a more pedestrian and cycling friendly community.
- As our urban envelope intensifies, preserving and enhancing greenspace becomes even more important. We must be open to innovative and creative strategies to address this issue.
- Our rural area is threatened by the possibility of a mid-pen highway that would go through or near Lowville and Kilbride. We must stand up to the province to not only oppose this idea but also advocate for alternative solutions to the Greater Golden Horseshoe area’s transportation challenges.
- Last term both regional and city council strongly supported protecting the Mount Nemo plateau from further aggregate extraction. We must continue to be resolute in our position.
- In the short term and long term, we need to clearly set measurable and achievable ecological targets and implement strategies to achieve these targets resulting in a healthier future for all of us. I believe that Burlington and Halton can be examples of what Canadian municipalities can do to reduce our ecological impact.
We all realize how fortunate we are to live where we do. Compared to the vast majority of the world, we do not have problems – we have challenges. We have relative prosperity, magnificent natural geographical features, wonderful neighbourhoods and a strong social conscience exhibited by the presence in Burlington of so many service clubs, organizations and faith communities that reach out to those in need.
In closing, I want to thank the staff who organized this event. There were many including Danielle Pitoscia and Joanne Rudy.
I also want to acknowledge my wife Cheryl along with my 3 daughters and 4 step daughters for their tremendous support. Behind every successful man is a surprised woman but in my case there are 8.
I look forward with great optimism to working with my council colleagues, city staff and the community.
As I conclude my inaugural remarks, I would like to leave you with this quote:
“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
– African proverb