A Strong Future for Burlington: My Commitments as your Councillor
Burlington is going through significant growth and change. We’ll have many opportunities to make our city stronger, while still protecting what we value most about our community.
That requires vision and careful planning, but you’ve said that’s lacking on council. We’ve also got some work to do to restore confidence and trust in City Hall, and repair Burlington’s reputation as a well-managed city.
You’ve said you want strong leadership, communications and business experience around council table – skills I will bring as your councillor for Ward 2. (Click here to read more about my background).
My top priorities as your councillor will be to rein in spending, seek balanced development, support our businesses and improve transparency, accountability and public input in decision-making. There are also many more issue that require new leadership, that I will work on as your councillor.
Below you will find my commitments for securing A Strong Future for Burlington, which outlines my full list of priorities as your councillor for the next four years and beyond.
Rein in spending and focus on priorities:
City spending is going up three times the rate of inflation to pay for nice-to-have legacy projects like the pier, which is further complicated by poor oversight, creating delays and cost overruns. Our seniors risk being taxed out of their homes. The character of our neighborhoods is at risk as the city approves out-of-scale development chasing tax revenue to feed overspending. Going forward, we’re going to have to be far more disciplined to live within our means.
As your councillor, I’ll bring my background as a business owner to:
- Work to reduce tax increases by focusing on priorities – infrastructure and core services – over nice-to-have legacy projects
- Review all spending, not just increases over the previous year (called zero-based budgeting)
- Require a business case so taxpayers know the viability of capital projects and their ongoing tax burden
- Seek better oversight of projects to avoid cost overruns, and deal quickly with problems as they arise
- Improve transparency and accountability by telling you exactly how much city taxes are going up, instead of hiding behind the lower blended city-region-education tax rate
- Seek your input – and community expertise – in setting budget priorities, especially on major capital projects
- Cut frivolous spending and lead by example: I’ll pay my own way for golf tournaments and galas, instead of billing you; and I won’t use taxpayer-funded city resources for election campaigns.
For more details, watch my “Control spending” video to be released soon.
Seek balanced development:
Development and growth can revitalize and renew our downtown and neighborhoods, with a vision and careful planning. But the community’s vision – captured in the official Plan – is routinely set aside, giving away 2, 3, and even 4 times the height and density limits in exchange for dubious community benefits worth far less. Worse, you’re not meaningfully consulted before changes go ahead. With more growth coming, we’ve got to strike a better balance between development interests and community priorities. We can reach our growth targets and revitalize our neighborhoods without compromising their character.
As your councillor, I will support development that follows my five principles of balanced development:
- Respect the character of existing neighborhoods, as mandated by both provincial and municipal legislation
- Respect the Official Plan, making changes not on an ad hoc basis as happens now but during the formal, public review process (next one is in 2011)
- Negotiate community benefits with the community present
- Consult the community – early, meaningfully. Through my free monthly community newsletter and email alerts, I’ll let you know of development projects and public meetings, seek your input, and report on meetings you can’t attend. I’ll be a strong voice on council for your interests, since I don’t own rental properties downtown that would prevent me from voting, as your current councillor does.
- Keep an arm’s length relationship with developers; I don’t support the city serving as the developer’s banker by offering a deferral of development charges, as this council has done; and I don’t accept campaign contributions from developers, as several councillors do
For more details, watch my “Our Neighbourhoods at Risk”” video.
Improve Transparency, Accountability and Public Input
You attend public meetings to find minds are already made up, or learn about decisions after the fact. Only residents within 120m are notified of major projects, even if they affect the whole community. You can’t decipher the bureaucratese of city notices. You feel disconnected from decision-making at City Hall – yet you want a say in how our city is run and and it spends your money. The Shape Burlington citizen’s report on civic engagement earlier this year found a need to transform City Hall to increase civic engagement and “improve public trust and confidence” in government.
As your councillor, I will use my 21-year background as a professional print and broadcast journalist to:
- Continue to publish a free monthly community newsletter and periodic email alerts, letting you know about public meetings, community events, decisions coming up at city & regional committee and council meetings, and seeking your input. You can sign up to receive it by email (email@example.com), fill out the request form on this website or 905-335-1899.
- Publish an annual accountability report, so you can assess my voting record and performance each year against the goals and commitments we have made together as a community.
- Seek recorded votes and post these online, so you can hold council accountable for our decisions on your behalf. Currently, unless you attend meetings, don’t know how your councillor voted.
- Establish an open, public and citizen-led neighborhood council, instead of the current hand-picked, closed door advisory committee.
- Push for greater transparency and disclosure on big ticket items like taxes, Pan Am games, the pier.
- Host public meetings that work, using a variety of models that stimulate productive conversations on making our city better, early in the planning process.
- Provide daily Tweets and Facebook updates of public meetings and breaking issues so you can stay informed in real time.
- Tell you what’s happening in brief, plain language, no matter where you live in the city.
- Implement the recommendations of the Shape Burlington committee, including restoring trust and confidence in City Hall, implementing an “early notification system” of upcoming decisions, transforming City Hall’s communications policies and methods, and maintaining independent communications with residents.
Support Local Businesses
The shortage of parking downtown, combined with a 2-hour limit on parking metres, is hurting our downtown businesses – a recent survey by the downtown business association found businesses are losing clients over this. And yet, City hall does not require major new commercial operators to provide parking (a 40-yr-old bylaw exemption!) and routinely gives reductions on residential parking, which spills into streets. And it’s a sore point with many residents I talk to that city employees – including councillors – park free at municipal lots. As a business owner myself (Meed Ward Media communications, founded in 1998, member of the Burlington Chamber of Commerce) I want to see our businesses thrive.
As your councillor, I will:
- Re-visit the 1969 bylaw that exempts parking requirements for major new commercial developments.
- Partner with developers to build parking, rather than provide parking exemptions, and use money from parking levy local businesses pay into to share costs with developers.
- End free parking for city councillors, and consider doing the same for city staff.
- Extend the onstreet parking limit from 2- to 3-hours, which is the standard in other cities, so visitors don’t have to leave activities to move their cars.
- Offer free parking on a trial basis during slow periods, to see if that brings more people downtown.
- Ensure that in reaching our growth targets we aim to attract new office development, not simply residential growth. Provincial legislation allows our “200 per hectare” target to be either jobs or residences. We need a strong mix of both, but current intensification plans are almost entirely focused on residential growth.
- Re-visit tax exemptions for vacant commercial space, to encourage landlords not to leave shops empty.
- Favour local procurement to support Burlington companies.