Your new Burlington City Council was inaugurated on Dec. 3, 2018, so as of today (Tuesday, March 12), we will officially have been on the job for 100 days. I still wake up smiling every morning, grateful for the opportunity to be Mayor of this amazing city.
We’ve worked well together, modelling respectful dialogue and debate, and as a result we already have a long list of accomplishments that serve our community and honour our election commitments.
I want to take a moment to share with you the Top 30 accomplishments this council has achieved so far and where we are headed together as a city.
In our first 100 days we have:
- Imposed an interim control bylaw freezing development downtown and around the Burlington GO station for one year while we study appropriate land use in a mobility hub, without simultaneously processing applications that wildly diverge from our Official Plan.
- Embarked on an overhaul of the adopted (but not approved) new Official Plan. Among other things, the review will include revisiting height and density in downtown Burlington and intensification in general, as well as areas of the Plan identified by Halton Region as non-conforming with provincial policies.
- Directed staff not to use the new adopted OP in reviewing applications, but instead to use the current plan that is legally in force and fully compliant with provincial policy; eliminated the Grow Bold branding and moved to close the expensive storefront for planning staff on Locust Street in downtown Burlington in favour of more economical space.
- Recalled the settlement for 2100 Brant Street, approved by the previous council, post-election, when it was known 5 members were not returning; the recall provides time to work with the community and developer on an improved project that is a win-win for the applicant and residents.
- Approved funding for outside planning staff of $200,000 to handle the surge in applications and ensure processing is within legislated time frames so we don’t risk appeals to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal for “non-decision” within the deadline.
- Approved funding of $600,000 for planning studies not yet undertaken, such as a housing strategy, as part of the Official Plan review.
- After town halls and public feedback collection, delivered the lowest tax increase in eight years, near the rate of inflation at 2.99% for the city portion, and 2% once blended with Halton Region and education taxes.
- Approved free transit for seniors at off-peak hours Monday to Friday, and free transit for low income residents who qualify for the Region’s SPLIT subsidized transit pass. Added three more buses and six drivers for conventional transit, and an additional bus and driver for Handivan service to increase frequency on main routes to better align with 15-minute GO service and respond to increased demand.
- Added an additional staff person for seniors programming in response to increased demand.
- Approved two more bylaw officers for the city to provide weekend and after-hours service that we currently don’t have.
- Directed staff to report back on options for limiting panhandling at busy intersections, to ensure both pedestrian and driver safety.
- Reinstated the Citizens Waterfront Advisory Committee and stand-alone Transit Advisory Committee; recruitment to begin in the spring, following an overall review of citizen committees.
- Added $100,000 annually in new tree planting funding to contribute to the health of our tree canopy and help mitigate the loss of trees we have seen due to the Emerald Ash Borer, and launched the private tree bylaw in the Roseland community, with planned continued public engagement on extending the bylaw city-wide.
- Increased funding for our city’s infrastructure to address annual needs and help eliminate the backlog in projects.
- Established the Mayor’s Red Tape, Red Carpet Task Force to eliminate barriers to business and roll out the red carpet to attract jobs to Burlington so more of our residents can both live and work here.
- Approved a resolution that we will not open the Greenbelt for development or compromise public safety protections by setting aside the Clean Water Act, as permitted in the Province’s proposed Bill 66 Open for Business legislation. After hearing voices from across Ontario, the Province eliminated the ability to bypass legislation from the bill.
- Approved a resolution in response to the Province’s Regional Review that we are not interested in a City of Halton and operate efficiently at both the city and Region.
- Represented Burlington’s voice at the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area meeting of mayors called by Toronto Mayor John Tory, and at the Large Urban Mayor’s Caucus of Ontario meeting (part of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario).
- Held the first of two workshops on increasing our government relations activities in response to regular Provincial announcements and changes, and an upcoming federal election this fall.
- Directed staff to report back by this fall on new technology options to ease traffic congestion.
- Voted to opt-in to allowing cannabis retail stores in Burlington to help eliminate the black market and provide safe, regulated access for adults to this product. The first store location announced in Burlington, at the corner of Walkers Line and Fairview Street, is well away from sensitive areas.
- Launched a Key to the City program to honour individuals who have made a significant contribution to Burlington. The first recipient named is Mike Taylor of the band Walk Off the Earth, who passed away unexpectedly in January. The program was announced at a well-attended tribute concert, pulled together in one week’s time with help from the band, multiple musical acts, the Sound of Music Festival, local businesses, my office and city staff.
- Launched discussions to finalize a four-year work plan to deliver on campaign commitments as well as select initiatives in the city’s 25-year Strategic Plan.
As your Mayor, I have:
- Been appointed to the following boards and committees: Burlington Economic Development Corporation, Burlington Hydro, Conservation Halton, Mayors Millennial Advisory Committee, and Greater Bay Area Committee, a joint committee with Hamilton.
- Reduced the budget and reorganized the Project Management Office to focus on service delivery, innovation, finding efficiencies, and increasing transparency and reporting back on actions to achieving council’s goals.
- Welcomed Tim Commisso as the interim City Manager, who has set a positive, collaborative and problem-solving tone and approach. The formal search for a permanent City Manager will begin with a few weeks.
- Brought greetings at multiple community events including the Gift of Giving Back’s Food Drive and recent Top Chef challenge, Coldest Night of the Year, joint BEDC/Chamber of Commerce Business After 5 gathering, and International Women’s Day events for Joseph Brant Hospital, Ontario Power Generation and Tech Place.
- Welcomed new businesses to Burlington including Able-One Systems at Tech Place, Soni Dental in north Burlington, and Doctor’s Peter and Alison Lejkowski at PROPEL Active in our downtown core.
- Visited several elementary and secondary schools to speak about what our city’s government does and why the student voice is important.
- Continued to regularly engage with Burlington residents via
- in-person meetings, calls and emails;
- the Mayor’s bi-monthly Burlington Matters show on Cogeco/YourTV;
- the Mayor’s monthly Town Hall series on 900CHML radio;
- my monthly email/web newsletter that always includes “My Take” so residents know where I stand on the issues at hand; and
- through multiple daily postings across my social media channels to keep residents informed and where I invite feedback from the community.
I also want to thank each ward councillor, five of whom are new to the job, for uniquely delivering for their constituents and continuing to bring the needs of their communities to the Council table, as well as thank our Interim City Manager for all the work he and city staff have done to date. Here’s what each had to say in their own words about our 100-Day mark.
Ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith:
“The first 100 days of being a new Councillor have been a massive learning experience for myself personally, but an honour to serve. Our new council is a diverse group and it has been great to work with them. I am proud that we are delivering some new services to the residents in the budget in terms of free transit for seniors, new staff for seniors’ program and the Joseph Brant Museum. We are also looking into a bike sharing program to connect residents with our mobility hubs and the downtown.”
Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns:
“Residents want to re-connect with their City hall. I’ve worked to rebuild trust through the launch of the first Ward Business Meeting Registry, so you know who is talking to your councillor — in line with a code of conduct. This directly supports the transparency, accountability and integrity of the government decision-making process and promotes open dialogue between the many stakeholders that make up our community.”
Ward 3 Councillor Rory Nisan:
“I believe our primary achievement as a council has been delivering a budget that improves the quality of life of Burlington residents, including delivering the Brant Hills splash pad, as well as better public transit, while keeping the tax increase within a half per cent of inflation.”
Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte:
“The tree canopy in Ward 4 is a valuable asset to our city’s health and well-being, and I’m glad we have taken steps to protect it and replenish it with the Roseland Private Tree Bylaw and additional funding for tree planting to help mitigate the losses we’ve seen to our urban tree canopy in recent years from the Emerald Ash Borer.”
Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman:
“I’m happy to see the improvements to Burloak Park maintenance for Ward 5, and the launch of city-wide free transit for those who qualify for the SPLIT transit subsidy program, along with free weekday transit for seniors. It is a pleasure to work with our new members of Council as we all get to know each other.”
Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna:
“In these first 100 days, I’m proud to have launched advisory groups in four distinct Ward 6 neighbourhoods (Headon Forest, Millcroft, Alton Village and our Rural area), held a well-attended Ward 6 town hall budget meeting, proposed a staff direction to look at how we streamline budget processes in 2020, and provided input to the City in providing better hearing accessibility in Council Chambers.”
Interim City Manager Tim Commisso:
“Council has been focused on building a strong relationship with staff. This priority was an emphasis during their orientation and out of this developed the Civic-“ology” program, which is an informal opportunity for council to meet and work closely with staff in all departments.”
There is still much work to do over the next four years, but your council is off to a great start and it all begins with respect for each other, for residents and for staff. One of the most important things we have done is set a positive tone of respect and collaboration among council and with staff, creating positive energy throughout City Hall. By inviting and welcoming diverse perspectives in a respectful environment, we set the stage for great ideas to emerge to address the challenges we face in our community… together.