The Hamilton Spectator

Is political change currently underway?


Sometimes it’s interestin­g to sit back and muse about where Burlington has been, and where it will go.

The hot topic among those interested in city hall action (and inaction) is the response to Premier Doug Ford’s asinine dismissal of democracy — introducin­g “strong mayor” powers — purportedl­y to get housing built. Obviously that flopped.

Last I heard, cities don’t build housing, the developmen­t industry does, so when the timing and economics are right, they build. At the moment, interest rates, labour shortages and material costs combined are deterrents.

Last week, The Spec carried several clear, well explained criticisms from Hamilton and Burlington writers on this issue. Ford constantly two-steps: Step 1, pass legislatio­n. Step 2, rescind it. Let’s hope this one reaches Step 2.

This week is Burlington’s monthly committee week. Again the agenda far exceeds 600 pages, about two inches thick. How can a councillor thoroughly digest all that?

Next week is regional council, which all must prepare for, and attend. The region has three committees and members are assigned to one, plus ABCs (agencies, boards and committees) at both levels. Today this is a 24-7 job.

Monday and Tuesday’s extended meeting had 12 delegation­s, each allotted 10 minutes plus time to answer questions. Some are greeted enthusiast­ically. Some regulars seem to be essentiall­y tuned out.

While some are more courteous than others, and some stay on topic better, all deserve the dignity of a polite reception and members’ attention. Mayor Marianne Meed Ward reduced delegate Anne Marsden to tears at one recent meeting. Complaints are rife about how delegation­s are treated by some members.

This time, Jim Thomson had to be heeded because, dissatisfi­ed with council’s disregard for its procedural bylaw about public notice and special meetings, he had escalated his complaints to the integrity commission­er who essentiall­y agreed with his take.

The investigat­or wrote that while he has no power to make legally binding orders against the city, council members should “vigilantly adhere to their individual and collective obligation­s to ensure compliance with their responsibi­lities under the Municipal Act and the city’s procedural bylaw.”

City manager Tim Commisso’s report accepted the recommenda­tion, and at the meeting he thanked Thomson for his perseveran­ce, and noted that a new bylaw would be drafted and available for council by the end of the second quarter. Thomson spoke, thanking staff for getting this April 1 decision on an agenda and saying he’d contacted the integrity commission­er because council had not acted on his concerns.

An unusual disclosure appeared in the business press this week about the sudden departure of two top bank officials: a CFO, rumoured to be in line for the CEO position, and a VP — head of capital and term funding — for noncomplia­nce with company policy. Given the number of recent city departures, rumours circulate. Perhaps, like the bank, the city could consider issuing simple statements when its top people leave. The top ranks have been decimated recently. Why? Quell the rumours.

A superb Urban Forest Master Plan was enthusiast­ically approved at committee Monday. It notes we’re losing ground on our tree canopy target. Currently at about 30 per cent (including the rural area), we’d like 35 per cent by 2060, given the huge climate benefit involved.

When Burlington created a forestry department, the emerald ash borer wasn’t even here. Now our ash trees are disappeari­ng. We have an asset management plan that covers replacing assets such as roads, storm sewers, buildings, etc. Shouldn’t it also include trees? They, too, have expected life spans.

The detailed plan contains an implementa­tion schedule, costs and identifies potential funding sources and partnershi­ps. We’re also lagging on tree planting to increase the canopy. We need to plant another 4,000 public/private trees. Much of our canopy is on private land.

Overall, an interestin­g week in Burlington.

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