Title: Behind the Ballot:Burlington Mayoralty Forum
Location: TV Cogeco, Channel 23
Description: Burlington Mayor Candidates Debate and Discussion
Start Time: 9:30am
End Time: 11:00am
Title: Behind the Ballot:Burlington Mayoralty Forum
A Summary of the Responses to the Shape Burlington Candidate Questionnaire, 2010
The vast majority of the candidates who responded to our questionnaire appreciates the need to revise the protocols and procedures used to inform and involve all of Burlington’s citizens, giving due regard to the changing demographic patterns. In particular, they felt that there was definitely a need to include young people in the civic discourse. It is clear from the responses that the mechanisms proposed by Shape Burlington need to be more fully elaborated. We hope that the newly-elected Council will do so.
Responses to Individual Questions:
1. Communication: Empower people by overcoming the communication deficit.
The City should foster the development of an independent information service, including a web-based community news and information portal, and fundamentally transform the Communications Department at City Hall to become a timely and reliable source of City information free of political bias.
1a: Are you satisfied with how Burlington’s Council and city staff communicate with residents? If not, what are the current problems?
Over 60% of the respondents made it clear that they were not satisfied with the current situation. Surprisingly, 12% didn’t answer the yes/no part of the question; 17% were partially satisfied and two stated they were satisfied.
1b: What would you do to improve the situation?
Answers here covered quite a bit of ground. Of note were the facts that: 33% indicated that existing processes needed to be improved, 25% stated that there ought to be greater coverage by existing media, and 25% noted that the city ought to make use of electronic media (social networks and email). Provide greater resources to the existing communications department and make use of community councils were both identified by 21% of the respondents.
2. Trust: Improve the public’s trust and confidence in City government.
Staff and council members should review their protocols and procedures for dealing with citizens, including an overhaul of the delegation process.
Q: Are you satisfied with the current methods that City Hall uses to respond to issues raised by Burlington’s residents? If not, how would you revamp the process of responding to residents’ and delegations’ inquiries and issues?
The most common response, made by 42% of the candidates, was to improve the delegation process. 37% noted that the culture of city hall ought to be improved and that there should be greater respect for dialogue between the city and its citizens. Again, 33% stated that the processes ought to be improved, half of them stating specifically what ought to be done. And 17% indicated that there ought to be a website with current information.
3) Vision: Shift City Hall processes to greater involvement of all citizens in a shared vision of our city.
Citizens should be more involved in preparing Burlington’s Strategic Plan after each municipal election.
Q: How would you involve citizens in the preparation of the City’s Strategic Plan following the up-coming elections?
Almost one-half of the candidates mentioned that there ought to be early organized citizen input to the city’s strategic plan. An even greater number made rather general statements about what roles that residents, staff, and Council would play in the development of such a charter. Nevertheless, only three candidates defined a process to be put in place.
4. Engagement: Transform the City Hall culture to promote active citizenship and civic engagement.
A crucial first step is the development of an Engagement Charter, a plain language policy document that incorporates benchmarks and accountability’s for citizens to influence City policies. This includes an early notification system that provides adequate time for citizens to understand, discuss and develop positions before decisions are made.
4a: Do you agree with the development of an Engagement Charter? If yes, indicate the roles that residents,staff,and Council would play in the development of such a charter. If no, explain why not.
All but four candidates indicated that there ought to be an Engagement Charter. Only one disagreed and one failed to answer the question. In terms of roles, 29 % made general statements while 17% were quite specific with respect to who ought to be doing what.
4b: What should the Council do to ensure that Burlington’s citizens are informed of what is going on at City Hall in sufficient time so that they can provide meaningful input to its decisions?
37% of the candidates provided a list of four or more ideas and 25% indicated generally that changes need to take place. Not surprisingly, media played an important role: 37% mentioned the use of electronic media and 17% noted that existing media should play a more important role than at present. And community councils came up again, identified by 21% of the respondents.
5. Participation: Empower committees and community organizations that work for people.
An Office of Engagement should be established to foster and implement recommendations contained in this report. The Director of the Office would implement the Engagement Charter, working with municipal departments to review their policies and design more effective forms of consultation and engagement as well as developing a template for independent community or neighborhood councils.
5a: Is an Office of Engagement needed to ensure that citizens and citizen advisory committees are properly notified, consulted and their recommendations implemented or at least seriously considered? Please explain your position.
There was nothing like consensus here: 42% of the respondents agreed, 33% were not sure, and 25% disagreed.
5b: Do you support an Office of Engagement working with the community to develop a template for community or neighbourhood councils? Please explain your position?
Curiously, given the answers to 5a), only 25% agreed with an Office of Engagement helping develop a template for community councils, yet 71% in all felt that such a template should be developed. Two were unsure, and two disagreed.
6. Belonging: Build a caring and inclusive community.
The City should reach out to minorities, marginalized groups and all of Burlington’s geographical areas.This would include establishing a policy of inclusivity measurements to ensure that City policies, programs and services reflect our changing population.
Q: What can the City do to effectively reach out to minorities and marginalized groups throughout Burlington to ensure that the City’s decision-making reflects its existing and changing population?
Most candidates made very general responses to this question. 21% identified language barriers and the same percentage mentioned community/advisory/ethnic councils. Only three people went into much detail.
7. Youth: Reach out to the next generation.
In cooperation with the school boards, Council should invest in meaningful educational initiatives at different grade levels and also engage students on issues important to them. members of Council and staff should be made available to speak to students in their schools.
Q: What ideas do you have for encouraging young people to become more informed and engaged in local government, especially with respect to issues that directly concern them?
Virtually everyone made a positive response to this question. Over half mentioned working with local schools and school boards; 29% talked about youth advisory councils; and 37% stated that Council members should be talking directly to students, making it as personal as possible. Only one person provided an answer that was irrelevant.
8. Governance: Define roles and responsibilities.
A governance review should be undertaken to clearly define and differentiate the roles and responsibilities of Council and staff.
Q: What is your ideal in terms of the roles of members of Council and the roles of City Staff, and how the two should work together?
The answers here were not particularly insightful. Half stated the expected response: Council sets policy and staff provides advice and executes council’s decisions. 33% of the candidates stated the need for a “cohesive team,” and surprisingly, 17% didn’t really answer the question.
Title: Ward 5 Candidates Meeting
Location: Robert Bateman High School library. 5151 New St.
Description: Candidate initiated event. Q and A format. Questions accepted before start.
Start Time: 7:00pm (Changed from 7:30)
From the Burlington Post, Thursday, September 30, 2010:
Citizen committee aims to whip Burlington into shape
By Tina Depko
BURLINGTON POST STAFF
Using the Shape Burlington report as a jump-off point, a new community group is working to ensure that the recommendations do not get lost in the busy weeks leading up to the Oct. 25 election.
The 14-member committee, which is called Shaping Burlington, assembled earlier this year. While there are several Shape Burlington members on the committee, the group says it is independent from the mayor- commissioned report and is not connected to city hall in any way.
The committee’s first task has been creating a list of questions for candidates vying for a spot around the council table based on the eight Shape Burlington recommendations.
“What we really need to do is make sure people in Burlington know about the report and know about its recommendations and we felt it was important that we asked the municipal council candidates what they thought of the recommendations,” said Chris Walker, chair of Shaping Burlington.
Such questions included:
Are you satisfied with how Burlington’s council and city staff communicate with residents?
Do you agree with the development of an engagement charter?
What ideas do you have for encouraging young people to become more informed and engaged in local government, especially with respect to issues that directly concern them?
The questions were sent out to all council candidates in mid-September. Responses were to be approximately 50 words in length.
Walker said that he was happy with the response rate, which he estimates to be close to 80 per cent among candidates. Answers have been posted on the group’s website, sorted by wards as well as side-by-side comparisons.
“We’ve done no editorializing — it is strictly what they have said and it is done so people can really compare what each candidate has said,” Walker said.
A summary report revealing how much support there is among candidates per recommendation will be posted on the website, likely within the next week.
Among the reforms receiving support from most candidates were improved communications, greater transparency and the development of an engagement charter that includes an early notification system to provide citizens adequate time to understand, discuss and develop positions before decisions are made.
“There is very strong support for a lot of the recommendations,” said Walker. He added that there were some minor variances in responses from incumbents.
“In some cases, among the incumbent candidates, there was sort of a feeling that maybe things aren’t too bad as they are, but other people were saying no, there is a need for much, much better communications and so on,” he said.
Following the election, Shaping Burlington members would like to sit down with the new city council to discuss moving forward with the Shape Burlington report, particularly focusing on developing an engagement charter and a new strategic planning process that includes more citizen involvement.
Walker said the committee will work to ensure the support shown among candidates for Shape Burlington recommendations continues after election day on Monday Oct. 25.
“We’re optimistic, but we’re not going to sit back, either,” Walker said.“We’re going to be holding people’s feet to the fire. You really need to. It’s a matter of advocacy and once the new council gets going, they’re going to have a lot of things on their plate and you want to make sure that this is one of the top ones.”
Shaping Burlington encourages citizens to get involved this election, from attending all-candidates meetings to making the effort to vote.
“That’s the thing we’re really all about — encouraging people to really get involved,’ Walker said.
For information about Shaping Burlington, including survey responses, visit www.shapingburlington.ca. To obtain a hard copy of the survey results, leave a message at 905-332-4587.