Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Trust the Process

“Trust the process.” Former Burlington mayor Walter Mulkewich brought this bit of advice to city Council last night.

This was in the context of trying to decide on a design option for the proposed Burlington Performing Arts Centre.

Good advice. But when is process finished, or started for that matter?

That was at the crux of the debate and, in fact, is at the centre of many city hall debates.

It is clear that there has been lots of process on this file. Meetings, reports, polling and public consultation go back at least six – some might even say nine - years.

Today’s politicians largely support “process.” But they are elected to make decisions. At the end of the day they have to raise their hands and vote yes or no. Opportunities can be missed and costs will escalate if decisions continually get put back.

A big part of yesterday’s debate was whether the proposed location of a studio theatre (front or back) best met the needs of potential user groups and the community.

It seemed early in the evening that most of those who supported and will use the Centre were satisfied with the “front” location.

Mayor Jackson didn’t see it that way. His reasonable view was that more process was needed, specifically around the studio theatre location. Toward the end of a sometimes acrimonious debate he moved an amendment:

“That the Project Management Team and the Performing Arts Advisory Committee must agree on the location of the studio theatre location before the design phase can commence.”

The motion was defeated four votes to three.

So, Councillors did indeed get to raise their hands and made a decision (on a 5 – 2 vote) to move a preferred option to the design development phase.

More To Come

There will still be lots of process. Concerns about escalating costs were mitigated only slightly by MP Mike Wallace’s commitment of $1.5 million additional federal support.

Those who see no value in such an important community project will be back. Neigbours will eventually have lots to say.

Parking as always is an issue on municipal projects – cost, accessibility and impacts on community.

Typically, those councillors who spoke about access to the facility talked of convenient car drop opportunities. Nary a thought that many users of the Centre would/could use public transit.

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