Last summer I asked Halton Social Services to put together a meaningful summary of what is happening in Halton and Burlington. For the most part, I was able to confirm the issues that I see and hear about every day. No matter how successful we are as a City and as a Community, there will always be those looking to catch up.
This is not a futile exercise. People move up the economic ladder through opportunity and education. Sometimes, society has to provide that support network so that survival is assured and opportunity can be taken advantage of. Many of us live with privilege that we take for granted and we simply don’t see the challenges that others face.
The Burlington Community Foundation has just released its first Burlington Vital Signs 2012 Report. I invite you to take a look. Burlington is one of the very best places to live for about 85% of the residents; but many others struggle just as they do in any community.
Although always a struggle, the many volunteers and contributors to worthy causes in Burlington make a huge difference through their efforts, and offer hope and opportunity to the less fortunate. As our community focuses on funding the needed hospital re-development, I am concerned that we will lose sight of those in real need. Meeting the needs of all members of the community is important to our community’s success.
I would like to express my gratitude to the Burlington Community Foundation for taking this step and introducing Vital Signs to Burlington. Awareness of the needs of others is needed so that we can help provide the opportunities required.
This summer, I have been taking the opportunity to reach out and meet with the public the old fashioned way – by knocking on doors and simply asking what you have to say.
I have been spending a couple of hours every few days meeting with residents across the City. I have received a great response. It is wonderful to be reminded what it is that residents appreciate so much about Burlington as a great place to live. I have also set up a short survey which I am asking residents to complete and the responses are continuing to come in.
One of the key questions I have been asking is does the Strategic Plan – Vibrant neighbourhoods, Prosperity and Excellence in Government – reflect your priorities for the city? Almost 90% of the responses to-date indicate that this Vision does reflect their priorities. I have had many additional comments on other important concerns including traffic, public transit and making sure that those not as fortunate have the opportunity to fully participate in the community.
I have also been asking residents to prioritize the key areas we are addressing. This input will certainly help me as we work to balance the needs across the community.
Residents have also indicated their continued frustration with the Pier. The Pier continues to be a distraction and we all want this project finished.
I would like to thank all those people that were so kind to me on their doorstep and provided such straight forward and thoughtful comments. I will be continuing to knock on doors for the next few days and I encourage you to complete the survey available through my website.
At last night’s Community Service Committee, Council was asked to review new information about the wind turbine that was removed from the pier project. Council received and filed the report last night. This means that the turbine project was not reconsidered and remains out of the project scope.
Council and staff are focused on completing the pier. The wind turbine was a project initiated by Burlington Hydro in 2005. At that time, renewable energy was in its infancy relative to local projects. The project was for demonstration purposes.
Since 2006, when the pier project was originally rendered, technology and implementation of renewable energy projects has progressed. The City recently implemented a significant project at Fire Station # 8 and is continuing to look at appropriate opportunities for renewable energy use. The City has also initiated the Community Energy Program to look at long term energy sustainability and this project will include, energy conservation and renewable energy generation as part of the long term plan.
A wind turbine at the end of the pier presents some challenges. Given the option, Council has chosen to minimize any of those issues and I am sure will continue to look at viable renewable energy projects in the future.
This column appeared in the Burlington Post on August 3, 2011 and is available online at http://www.insidehalton.com/opinion/columns/article/1051806–burlington-our-future
August 3, 2011
Council completed the draft for the strategic plan on July 20. I believe that this plan will be well received as it speaks to the needs and desires of the community. We received extensive input from the residents, the business community, non-profits and social organizations and this is reflected in the plan.
We will be sharing the strategic plan with the community at the end of the summer for more comment and feedback. The new plan is more focused, more specific, will be more measurable and most importantly can be achieved. Our city will continue to change. The strategic plan continues the process of defining Burlington’s future. I think of this as Burlington 3.0. Innovation in technology, energy, transportation and communications will change how society works. As we grow we will see changes in our demographics, our neighbourhoods, increased public transit, and more opportunities to work in our own community. As part of the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area our economy will grow and we will become a more diverse society with different needs.
Burlington 3.0 will also be far more sustainable. Sustainability is not about hugging trees. It is about managing our resources as stewards, it is about protecting and enhancing what we have, it is about establishing a culture around leaving our community a little bit better each generation and ensuring that hope and possibility is there for our children and their children.
To achieve this future we also have to look at City Hall. City Hall and much of the public sector is being judged differently by the community. Outstanding governance, transparency and a more adaptable government are needed as we move forward. Financial sustainability will require some decisions about our infrastructure, our services and the size and role of local government. We need meaningful conversations about these issues. I certainly don’t have all the answers but I am confident that we can move forward and address these challenges.
Three very important aspect of Burlington 3.0 are being decided on during the coming provincial election. The Niagara/GTA Highway concept holds the possibility of putting another highway through the heart of our rural area. We need to update our hospital. Joseph Brant lags behind in its level of service and Burlington experiences the longest wait times in Ontario by a significant margin. This is unacceptable. I also ask you to consider the impact of the Green Energy Act. To achieve sustainability in the future we need sustainable policy. I ask you to consider and reflect on these issues through the coming election.
This column appeared in the Burlington Post on April 20, 2011 and is available online at http://www.insidehalton.com/opinion/columns/article/995737–it-s-your-city
April 20, 2011
Council approved the lowest tax increase in 11 years this month.
After 10 years of increases and some significant growth in the city, it was time to slow spending down.
Building a city is not just about taxes and infrastructure. A community is about people. There has been a lot of discussion about community engagement. As I look around and meet people across the community I see nothing but an engaged community. Engagement comes in many forms.
Burlington has a very active volunteer community. We see this active volunteerism in our sports organizations, cultural activities, faith groups, our festivals, our service clubs such as the Rotary and Lions Clubs and many others.
I attended the MS Walk last weekend and was reminded again of all the people that contribute to our community. I saw the volunteers, organizers and hundreds of participants raising money for a great cause. This happens almost every week in our great city.
Council is now working on the Strategic Plan and we are looking for input from the community about what kind of city you want Burlington to be.
We know change is going to come as it has continued to come since the day Joseph Brant received a deed for 3,724 acres in 1798. He surely would not recognize his homestead today.
In building our community for the future we will have to plan for some changes. When planning we are always looking ahead 20 plus years. Technology, oil prices, population growth, global economic factors and climate change are going to impact us no matter how hard we try to avoid it.
Burlington is not an island. We will work to protect traditional neighbourhoods, to add new buildings and density where appropriate, to improve our transit system where it will be effective and efficient, and to make our streets more pleasant to walk and live.
Continuing to build our local economy will also be critical to maintain Burlington’s quality of life. We need to be entrepreneurial and innovative to participate and prosper in the emerging global economy.
I ask you to take a moment to send me your thoughts, participate in one of our public meetings, or go to the City of Burlington website and find out about our Strategic Plan. It’s your city.