ECoBs origins were surrounded by considerable controversy, as we sought to promote citizen voices on subjects on which the then council did not wish to be challenged.
Here are our answers to some frequent questions or allegations about us.
Is ECoB biased?
ECoB is non-partisan, non-aligned, and entirely independent. While a current Burlington councillor (Councillor Lisa Kearns, Ward 2) is a former director of ECoB, she is no longer associated with us and resigned when she ran for office. ECoB did not endorse or aid any candidates during the 2018 municipal election in any way whatsoever and will not do so in future. ECoB is a non-profit run entirely by volunteers and funded by local donors.
Like most if not all volunteer-based organisations, ECoB exists to promote certain objectives we consider important. In our case, our objective is to promote the integral role of citizen voices in City Hall decisions in furtherance of a healthy local democracy. In so far as all citizen organizations exist to promote a cause, one might say they are all biased, but it would be ridiculous to do so. Burlington Green exists to promote a healthy Burlington environment. The Chamber of Commerce exists to promote local business. This is a normal and healthy part of the democratic process, and we do not believe ECoB is any different in our reasonable desire to promote an important principle.
Is ECoB just a group of ‘NIMBYs’ opposed to highrises near where they live?
The issue of highrise development and overdevelopment in downtown Burlington has certainly been a key issue in ECoB’s history, and we make no apology for that. Our organization came into being because the valid and reasonable concerns of the residents of Burlington were being dismissed and ignored by the then council and by a more general City Hall culture which we believe did not value citizen input. We did not believe that was right, and nor did a large majority of the residents of Burlington.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of development in Burlington, we do not believe it is ever right for reasonable concerns to be shut out of the decision-making process. Opinions, discussion and debate are a normal part of the democratic process, and residents raising concerns should never be belittled.
Debates about what constitutes reasonable and healthy development should be welcomed at City Hall. Statements suggesting that anybody who is concerned about plans for high density development are ‘NIMBYs’ are entirely unhelpful to a process of mature decision-making. Nobody has more to lose by bad development than those who live closest, and none have more to gain by well planned development. Suggesting that because someone lives close to a planned development they have no right to comment is facile and ridiculous.
ECoB will continue to assist residents with making their voices heard on planned developments, as well as many other issues. What those voices say will be down to the residents of Burlington, not ECoB, to decide. In a healthy city, all voices should be heard and respected.
With a new council elected in 2018, shouldn’t we just let them get on with it? Why is ECoB still needed?
Elections are only a small part of democracy. We certainly agree that the election of a new Council in 2018 creates hope in Burlington that City Hall will be more responsive to and respectful of residents’ opinions in future.
But an election is just a first step. As the Shape Burlington Report stated in 2010, and the city’s own Engagement Charter reitereated, citizens have a responsibility to play a role in their city in furtherance of an engaged community. A healthy city needs, and should welcome, engaged citizens. A better Burlington must be built by all of us – citizens, councillors and City Hall staff working together.
It is not our intention simply to oppose or channel residents’ anger at Council or City Hall. We are an organization to engage residents in making Burlington the best it can be.