Get ready for 2018 municipal election changes
Condo parking, school closures, bike lanes should make for an interesting campaign
Soon the “silly season” will be upon us, when local politicians strut and pontificate so we know the municipal election is close.
Burlington, overall, is well run, largely because of its superb staff, who constantly propose proactive polices for council — like life-cycle funding of assets, so everything won’t deteriorate at once, leaving taxpayers with enormous bills (taxes).
Three council members have been there forever. In 2018 John Taylor hits 30 years, Jack Dennison 24, and Rick Craven 18. With today’s high council salaries, and rich pensions, there’s no incentive to retire. Councillors now earn $103,783, and the mayor $174,673 combined city and regional salaries. They also have a $9,000 city expense account. Insiders say all seven members will seek re-election.
Issues? High school closures pitted neighbour against neighbour. This was a school board issue, but angered voters throughout the city — perhaps enough to turn some into candidates.
There’s no decision yet on the New Street “pilot project” bike lanes — whether they become permanent or get removed — but it’s due this fall. Burlington is neither a university city, nor a bike commuter city. Angry motorists are venting — not because there are bike lanes, but that they have lost a driving lane to accommodate so few cyclists.
Our too-small, seven-member council has said for years that, with a possible regional council size change looming, there was no point addressing the issue, but declined to even discuss it last year when seven regional seats were reconfirmed for Burlington.
Development? People are frustrated as developers ignore official plans and zoning, apply for the moon, then threaten to cost us more at the OMB if council doesn’t cave. Council approves condos, forgetting that our priority is promoting commercial/industrial. Proposed good changes to the OMB are unlikely to be legislated until fall at the earliest.
An emerging issue is condo parking. Our transportation department thinks cars are gone, and is reducing parking standards. Today it often accepts one space per unit in highrises where our lowest standard has been 1.25.
Developers say if there’s not enough parking, people won’t buy. Balderdash! They do, imposing parking chaos on neighbourhoods, and creating a tax burden for downtown businesses, who must pay a parking tax levy. An interesting recent article projected self-driving cars will increase car ownership because of their convenience for local trips.
Would-be candidates should start planning now for 2018’s election, Monday, Oct 22, but there are rule changes. Beating an incumbent takes great planning — a team, an issues list, sign and literature design — all the logistics. If recent global elections tell us anything, a “status quo” approach won’t likely succeed. A Burlington campaign can cost about $10,000.
One change is a shorter election period. Previously, nominations could be filed Jan 1. Now they must be filed between May 1 and July 27.
Before, candidates filed a form and paid the $100 returnable deposit ($200 for mayor). Now council candidates (school trustees are exempt) require signatures from 25 voters, who must sign a declaration that they are eligible voters. No fundraising can occur before a nomination.
The biggest change for candidates, though, is who can donate. Unions and corporations no longer can. BUT now they can register as “third-party” advertisers, and promote or pan candidates. I don’t like that, but I didn’t like developerfunded campaigns, either.
In 2014, councillors Rick Craven, Jack Dennison, Paul Sharman and Blair Lancaster benefitted most from their largesse. John Taylor self-funded; Marianne Meed Ward self-funded about 60 per cent, with no donations from developers. (Developers can still write personal cheques).
Now councils may establish advance rules for automatic recounts. For instance, if a candidate only won by 10 votes, previously he/she had to apply for a recount. And now it’s illegal for voters to take pictures or videos of their marked ballots.
Another change enabled councils to opt for a ranked ballot system, but both Burlington and Halton declined. London will be the first city using that system. We’ll watch that with interest.
Freelance columnist Joan Little is a former Burlington alderperson and Halton councillor. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org