The city we love must be ev­ery­one’s city

The Hamilton Spectator - - Comment - MAR­I­ANNE MEED WARD Mar­i­anne Meed Ward is the mayor of Burling­ton

Let me start by say­ing what an hon­our and priv­i­lege it is to be your new mayor of Burling­ton.

I’m stand­ing here tonight be­cause the peo­ple of this city asked for change. You asked for change.

I’m here to tell you: We heard you! We are lis­ten­ing!

We are go­ing to work to­gether to bring the change you have asked for: as a coun­cil, with the 1,580 staff who di­rectly de­liver ser­vices to our com­mu­nity, and with you, the peo­ple of Burling­ton.

We have our work cut out for us. First, we are go­ing to put res­i­dents first. Our role is to make de­ci­sions that serve you. We need to put your pri­or­i­ties first, like im­prov­ing traf­fic flow, and in­creas­ing parks and com­mu­nity ameni­ties.

We need to en­sure our bud­gets are fo­cused on your pri­or­i­ties, and held in check: tax in­creases in the last two years were over four per cent, which is well be­yond in­fla­tion. We can do bet­ter.

We need to lis­ten to you and en­sure your vi­sion for our fu­ture is re­flected in our de­ci­sions.

Most im­por­tant, we need to re­pair and re­store trust be­tween cit­i­zens and City Hall.

That starts with re­spect.

Si­mon Sinek, au­thor of “Start with Why,” said: “The role of a leader is not to come up with all the great ideas. The role of a leader is to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment in which great ideas can hap­pen.”

My role as head of coun­cil is to cre­ate that en­vi­ron­ment in which great ideas hap­pen.

That en­vi­ron­ment starts with re­spect. Re­spect for res­i­dents and the ideas you share with us; re­spect among coun­cil­lors — so you can trust we are work­ing to­gether for your best in­ter­est; re­spect for our city staff who im­ple­ment the de­ci­sions of coun­cil.

I had the hon­our to meet the Collins fam­ily re­cently and their story sums up what re­spect is all about.

Mom Jes­sica was walk­ing with Sum­mer, Kennedy and Max to the vot­ing sta­tion which was in their school. She had her voter ID card. Daugh­ter Kennedy, 6, asked what it was, and when her mom told her she said “Can we vote for the girl?”

Jes­sica said: “We don’t vote for peo­ple be­cause they are a girl or a boy, we vote for them be­cause they have the best ideas.”

So daugh­ter Sum­mer, 4, said “I have a good idea.” And this was her idea: “Don’t kick peo­ple.”

I think that’s as good a place as any to start on re­spect.

Sec­ond, we are go­ing to make sure Burling­ton is ev­ery­one’s city.

We must make sure ev­ery­one is in­cluded in the life of our city. We will not leave any­one out, and we won’t leave any­one be­hind.

In­clu­sion is about af­ford­able hous­ing — we want peo­ple of all in­comes to be able to live in Burling­ton, our youth, our fam­i­lies, and our se­niors.

In­clu­sion is about at­tract­ing busi­nesses and jobs to Burling­ton — we want peo­ple to live and work in the same com­mu­nity. We must stop the brain drain to other com­mu­ni­ties, and the congestion and time-suck­ing com­mutes that go with it.

In­clu­sion is about fix­ing our tran­sit sys­tem.

One of my most val­ued men­tors was the late John Boich, who had a long ca­reer in pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion.

John was a huge ad­vo­cate of tran­sit be­cause he knew tran­sit was more than a ride to a place, it was about in­clu­sion. If you can’t get to a park, or com­mu­nity cen­tre, or even city hall, in a rea­son­able time at rea­son­able cost you can’t fully par­tic­i­pate.

John didn’t need to take tran­sit him­self, he didn’t need af­ford­able hous­ing, but he used his po­si­tion of in­flu­ence to ad­vo­cate for oth­ers.

Third, we are go­ing to pro­tect the city we love.

We live in a great city be­cause of the ac­tions and ef­forts of the peo­ple who came be­fore us. We need to pro­tect what they fought for, while we plan for our fu­ture.

We will take on the is­sue of overde­vel­op­ment and en­sure we are fo­cused on rea­son­able growth go­ing for­ward. Coun­cil and the com­mu­nity are not against de­vel­op­ment; we will fo­cus on putting the right de­vel­op­ment in the right place.

We will lis­ten to res­i­dents and re­flect your in­put in our de­ci­sions.

The first step is to get our Of­fi­cial Plan back from the re­gion be­fore ap­proval Dec. 8, and push the re­set but­ton on the down­town plan.

We will have some good news very soon on how to do that so stay tuned!

Pro­tect­ing the city we love means we need to flood proof our com­mu­nity — flood­ing is the big­gest threat to mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties be­cause of se­vere weather.

Pro­tect­ing the city we love means pro­tect­ing our ru­ral area and work­ing with farm fam­i­lies to en­sure a sus­tain­able agri­cul­tural econ­omy.

We will fight any ef­fort to open the green­belt to de­vel­op­ment.

We will fight any re­newed ef­fort to put a high­way through our farm­land.

Pro­tect­ing the city we love means pro­tect­ing our tree canopy and adding to it.

Mary Munro knew about trees. She was Burling­ton’s first fe­male mayor, from 1977-78.

In Mary’s day, there was a plan to tear down the mas­sive trees on Lakeshore Road to ex­pand it for a high­way. Mary was elected on a plat­form to Save the Lakeshore. Those trees do more than make the street beau­ti­ful — they pro­vide shade, clean our air, and ab­sorb storm wa­ter be­fore it gets into the storm sew­ers or some­one’s base­ment.

We can hon­our the gift she helped to give us by do­ing our part to pro­tect trees and plant more.

Mary was also a fighter who spoke her mind, and never backed down, es­pe­cially on de­vel­op­ment.

That leads me to the fi­nal theme: We as a coun­cil are go­ing to hon­our our com­mit­ments to you be­cause we have the power.

I heard dur­ing this cam­paign — noth­ing can be done about de­vel­op­ment, the prov­ince holds all the cards, the new Of­fi­cial Plan can’t be changed.

The good news is: We are not pow­er­less! This elec­tion, and the change it brought, is about our city choos­ing our des­tiny to­gether, not a few peo­ple de­cid­ing for us.

I want to leave you with one fi­nal story to il­lus­trate what ded­i­ca­tion and pas­sion can achieve, against all odds.

It’s about the in­ven­tion of air travel in 1903.

One of the best known peo­ple in the field was Sa­muel Pier­pont Lan­g­ley. He had fund­ing — $50,000 from the War Depart­ment — a mas­sive sum of money in the late 1800s, he had friends of in­flu­ence in­clud­ing Alexan­der Gra­ham Bell and An­drew Carnegie, and he had a dream team of pi­lots, en­gi­neers and sci­en­tists.

But none of us know his name. Be­cause he didn’t in­vent air travel. The Wright Broth­ers did. Orville and Wil­bur Wright didn’t have money, friends in high places, or even a col­lege de­gree.

What they had was pas­sion and re­silience. They in­spired oth­ers in the com­mu­nity to join them. They kept go­ing in spite of fail­ure.

We must have courage, be­cause there will be chal­lenges ahead.

I have a poster in my of­fice with a quote from Teddy Roo­sevelt, for­mer United States pres­i­dent. I was born in the U.S. and I have a soft spot for Teddy, who in 1901 cre­ated the U.S. Na­tional For­est Sys­tem, which es­tab­lished 150 na­tional forests and five na­tional parks, in­clud­ing ex­pand­ing the size of Yosemite Na­tional Park where my fa­ther served as a park ranger be­fore we moved back to Canada. My play­mates were black bears and griz­zlies, which pre­pared me per­fectly for pol­i­tics.

Teddy said: “It is not the critic who counts, nor the one who points out how the strong stum­ble or could have done bet­ter. The credit be­longs to the one who is ac­tu­ally in the arena, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, be­cause there is no ef­fort with­out er­ror and short­com­ing. Spend your­self in a wor­thy cause; at best you’ll know the tri­umph of high achieve­ment, at worst, if you fail, you fail while dar­ing greatly.”

Each of you, my col­leagues, have en­tered a new arena, and I know you will strive valiantly, for a wor­thy cause.

That is noth­ing less than do­ing what is best for our peo­ple, our com­mu­nity.

And we need all of you, our staff, and our res­i­dents, with us. We need your ideas and pas­sion. We need you to hold us to ac­count to hon­our the trust you have placed in us.

Now, let’s get out there and do good things to­gether!


Burling­ton Mayor Mar­i­anne Meed Ward en­joys ap­plause af­ter be­ing sworn-in.

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