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City Council Columns - September 2017
For the second time in my two terms as a Kitchener City Councillor, we’ve hired a new person for the top city-staff role of Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). Jeff Wilmer, the previous and now retired CAO, performed admirably during his tenure. Mr. Wilmer helped to lead the city in our resident-led mandate of taxation at of the rate of inflation, while maintaining the city services upon-which we rely. His council-chosen successor, Dan Chapman, reported directly to the CAO, and also assisted significantly in that mandate as his previous role was the head of our Finance and Corporate services division. I have every confidence in our new CAO’s ability to execute any challenge that flows to him through council from the residents of this great and growing city.
I thought this might be an opportune time to explain the council-staff governance structure as I’ve often heard misconceptions. Some believe that city staff are our staff (i.e. Council’s), but that isn’t the case. The way the system works is that all of council really only has a single employee; the CAO. Council cannot direct other staff, only the CAO, and even then only as a collective council. In addition to running the day-to-day operations, it’s the CAO’s job to execute any motions, grandiose or mundane, passed at council meetings. It’s an interesting governance structure; as a member of council there are 240,000 ‘bosses’ we report to (i.e. the population of Kitchener) yet we have just one employee we rely upon to deliver our collective mandate and vision.
I’d like to wish the very best to staff and those attending the newly opened Chicopee Hills Public School. It’s been great watching the construction progress and thinking about how it will be a wonderful place for families to connect and for students to learn and grow. With the kids back in school now, let’s be sure to keep our speeds at the posted 40 kph in all our school zones.
Recently, I took part in a water infrastructure tour our staff offered to members of council. We saw the Woolner Trail Pumping Station, the Idlewood Creek Naturalization Project, The Stormwater Management Pond Retrofit on Lackner Drive, a Watermain Flushing on Idlewood Drive and Road Reconstruction on Sheldon Avenue.
It was very educational to see and hear about the depth of work being completed and how meticulously it’s done. I left with a better understanding of the work that goes into making sure Kitchener’s water delivery and sanitary/storm water systems are kept up to legislated standards 24 hours a day. The cost of doing this is extensive and after seeing all that is involved to do that work, I have a greater appreciation for those costs and for the results they achieve. Our staff members are some of the top professionals in their field and the quality of work and their pride in it was clearly evident.
Thanks to the Stanley Park and Centreville Chicopee Community Associations for the great programs they offer at their Community Centres. Visit and take part in the good things going on.
A reminder that our Corporate Contact Centre is staffed 24/7 at 519-741-2345. Call anytime to report an issue or get answers to questions about any city department.
Breithaupt Park Lighting Council recently approved the installation of lights at this park at an estimated cost of $580,000. Elapsed time to come to this final decision took more than six months. Considerable research and dialogue took place with all stakeholders. Normally recommendations coming to Council are discussed and debated at Committee Meetings and a vote is taken. This allows interested parties to have continued discourses with members of Council with the hopes of persuading them to reconsider their positions. Committee recommendations then proceed to Formal Council Meetings for a final vote and ratification. This process was not followed on this occasion. Not until the final night of discussions was a vote taken. At that point it was too late to follow the democratic process of contacting Councillors in an effort to dissuade them from their decision. This process circumvented the principles of transparency and meaningful public engagement
In this case both major stakeholders (the neighbourhood and minor baseball enthusiasts) did an exceptional job of investigating all sides of the issue. Generally both sides were respectful of each other. The neighbourhood did not want to close the park down. They wanted to continue current practices where activities in the park cease by 9:00 PM. Addition of lights means activities will not cease until about midnight. Minor baseball enthusiasts desire more facilities to meet the needs of a growing population. These facilities can be located anywhere in the City.
Limited financial information was provided for Council and as a result discussions were focused on two extremes; the staff recommendation of $580,000 and an Alternative estimated to cost $6.3 million. However, this was not a valid “apples to apples” comparison. The $6 million estimate include $5 million for land acquisition; $700 thousand for construction of diamonds and parking; contingencies of $345 thousand and finally $380 thousand for lighting.
Another alternative which looked at three existing sites in the City was given very little discussion or consideration as again limited financial information was available.
In my opinion transparency was ignored in this process.
Residents living in the area around Old Huron Rd. and Biehn Dr. have seen a lot of activity between Maxwell and Battler Rd. Old Huron Rd. is closed until approximately November for a long overdue and significant road reconstruction project.
The road has presented numerous challenges, including a blind curve, lack of safe walking area for pedestrians, and standing water in the bend of the road where it collected, creating challenges for both pedestrians and drivers in all seasons. To address these concerns, the road bed will be raised and curbs, sidewalks, and gutters will be added. This will provide a safer road for drivers and citizens who walk along this road, keeping conflicts between drivers and walkers sharing the road, to a minimum.
The project also includes a new culvert under Old Huron Rd. to replace what was originally underground and through which Strasburg Creek flowed. This new culvert will help keep the stream flowing better and provide a safer pathway for fish. It will also improve the environment along Strasburg Creek and reduce erosion.
During some of this culvert work, it came to the attention of our engineering staff that there were some additional complexities to be considered concerning the gas and sewer infrastructure. I’ve been assured that, while this part of the project may be delayed, work will continue around other parts of this contract, so there shouldn’t be significant delays or increased cost to this project.
Although road closures can be frustrating, it’s encouraging to know that that this much needed work will be completed soon.
With your help we can reduce graffiti in your neighbourhood. It’s considered an act of vandalism and is against the law. If you witness someone actively leaving graffiti vandalism, I urge you to please call 911 immediately to report the crime to the police. To report graffiti, please call the region wide Graffiti Busters hotline at 1-855-TAG-FREE (824-3733) with location details. You can also use our new mobile app, Pingstreet (search this on kitchener.ca for the app), to take a photo of graffiti in Kitchener and send it to us. The faster graffiti is removed, the less likely it is to spread or re-appear.
In response to some concerns raised in our ward and across the city, I wanted to provide you with some information on land rats. Urban environments unfortunately provide an excellent home for rats and mice which can carry disease. Keep an eye out on your property for rats and mice, and close any holes or gaps in your home to prevent them from entering. Prevent attracting them by cleaning up any sources of food or water and anything that might provide shelter for rodents. Contact Region of Waterloo Public Health at 519-575-4400, ext. 5147 or visit www.regionofwaterloo.ca, click on the Safe & Healthy Community tab, then Healthy Living tab, and search “rodents” for more information.
Just a quick note to let you know that we’ve added a new way for you to share your compliments, concerns or service improvement suggestions online or ask for assistance. At the top of the City’s homepage at kitchener.ca, you’ll now find a new “Feedback” option. Your entry is sent immediately for follow up within an approved timeframe.
The City of Kitchener is pleased to announce that Dan Chapman has been selected as its new Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). Mr. Chapman has been with the city for a total of 12 years, most recently as Deputy CAO, responsible for finance and corporate services.
During my council term, I take great pride that the city tax levy increases were kept in line with inflation, while budgets, although fiscally focused, still allowed for improved city services from previous levels. Equal credit is due to the city’s leadership team and our diligent Finance and Revenue Department, which Mr. Chapman directed over the last 7 years of my time on council.
I have considerable confidence in Mr. Chapman’s ability to lead the City of Kitchener’s corporate team with a focus on integrity, efficiency and community service.
August 26 was the 6th annual Ward 6 “Cinema Under the Stars” event. This was the first time that the weather cooperated enough to allow us to hold the event outside. I’m pleased to say that the event was very well attended and a great success in helping to animate Ward 6. I want to again thank the various volunteers from all the Ward 6 neighbourhood associations and city staff from Country Hills Community Centre who helped to make this event happen.
“Cinema Under the Stars” continues to help create a link and strengthen ties between the Country Hills Recreational Association, Chandler-Mowat Neighbourhood Association and the Alpine Community Neighbourhood Association. This collaboration between the neighbourhood associations has benefited our community.
Youth and Stars Success Walk is coming to Kitchener’s downtown September 30. This is an opportunity created to bring youth of all ages, cultures and abilities together to connect them with music and sports celebrities, as well as doctors, teachers, first responders, politicians and community leaders. These successful community leaders and celebrities will engage in purposeful conversation with participating youth to give advice, talk about career opportunities, while encouraging them to expand their skill sets, pursue higher education, and learn about recruitment possibilities during the 5K walk.
The event will host more than 100 booths including recruitment agencies, business and service providers. The day will end with a celebration and concert at Victoria Park. This is a wonderful opportunity for our youth to ask questions and get the tools and advice they need to pursue a successful and fulfilling career. Visit youthandstars.com to register, be a sponsor or apply to volunteer.
Tier 1 and Tier 2 Community Grant Appeals. Every member of council would like to support an appeal from deserving individuals and groups in need of financial assistance for good works in our community; however, this wouldn’t keep us on track with our annually budgeted dollars. So, council approved my motion to have a one year trial period whereby any 2018 appeals would be considered by the CAO, Deputy CAO of Community Services and the Executive Director of the Office of the CAO, removing the decision from council.
The summer is now winding down and so are the summer Classic Car Cruise Nights in Ward 8. Belmont Village had three successful cruise nights that were well attended with the help of some good weather this year.
Cruise nights at The Shops on Highland, west of Westmount Rd., will continue on a few more Mondays in September. So, c’mon out and see these classics, as well as my vintage vehicle.
Thanks once again to Brian Campbell and Wayne Fox for their efforts in organizing these two annual events and their great oldies music from the 50s/60s and prizes.
A new event in Belmont Village will take place on Sat. Sept. 16 from 10am to 10pm. Tim Moher has organized a “Belmont Village Bestival” music scene of jazz, blues and other local artists that will play in the village. Stages will be located at Belmont and Union and Belmont at Claremont. The day will kick-off with the Police Marching Band, followed by family fun activities including music by Erick Traplin, a drum circle, music workshops, and Funtastical Studios, as well as an art express tent. C’mon out and check out this new fall event and support the local businesses. Visit www.belmontvillagebestival.com for details.
Belmont Local Food Market was held every Tues. from 11am to 3pm during the summer, featuring fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables from local farms and baked goods from our village businesses. Sept. is the last month before the season ends. Again, c’mon out and support Belmont Village and our farmers. Thanks to all for running this weekly event.
Combining planning vision with quality design to create downtown revitalization can be expensive but Kitchener has already proved the cost is worth the investment.
Which is why I support a $1.8-million city proposal to upgrade Queen Street between Charles and Duke Streets on both sides of King.
It’s also why, at municipal budget time next year, I would be willing to do the job properly and invest as much as double the anticipated price for the renewal project.
At council recently I was pleased to see a majority of councillors support the proposal which would improve the health of the downtown which represents the beating heart of our city.
Still, I remain nervous about the half-hearted support displayed by some of councillors who, one eye on the 2018 municipal election, threaten to nickel and dime the project.
Despite that price tag, the plan has my support because I continue to see results of the economic boom in the west-end originally financed after councillors made a courageous decision in 2004 to support a $110-million loan over 10 years to upgrade that area.
On Queen, street infrastructure work was already planned for 2019 and this proposal represents a more efficient way of using taxpayer cash. The project would also link LRT stations on Charles and Duke.
On the price tag issue, part of the cost of the upgrade could be shared by higher levels of government, Kitchener’s Downtown Business Improvement Area as well as core developers who have recently invested millions in the area including an upcoming residential-retail-office project that will soon replace the shabby American Hotel block at Queen and King.
Included in the proposal:
- Redesign of the Vogelsang Green at Duke-Queen complete with a natural amphitheatre, a new parkette-water area at Charles-Queen, renewal of Halls and Goudies Lanes, green walls, decorative paving and special lighting.
Happy Fall to you. It’s a time of new beginnings, with school starting up again, community activities and programs beginning, and it is a time to enjoy the bounty of local produce, whether from your own garden, or from a nearby farm. There’s no better time than now to come check out the food and the activities at the Kitchener Market. I’m there each week, and I’m always meeting up with people to talk about city issues, ideas, or to greet participants at one of our many Kitchener Market events. It’s a natural gathering spot, where we can take a pause between shopping to catch up with a friendly face. I hope to see you on Saturday.
Later this month, I encourage you to check out world class theatre at the biennial IMPACT 17 international theatre festival. September 26th to October 1st. Details at mtspace.ca/impact-17.
On a more somber note, I want to mention a serious topic. In the past two years, I have worked in a couple neighbourhoods dealing with how to respond when a house becomes a main gathering place for injection drug users. In both cases, the houses became a drop-off point for stolen items like bicycles, tools, and other items. Even when these locations are known to police, the law is limited, and there are no easy answers to this complex problem. The more calls received by police, the more resources they can allocate to a specific area. Neighbours are recommended to report to police any suspicious behaviour, and to lodge a bylaw complaint about illegal metal recycling. Often people are reluctant to call, but it can be anonymous. Relevant numbers are: Police dispatch 519-653-7700 and bylaw enforcement 519-741-2345. Always call 911 if anyone’s safety is threatened.
Happy September everyone! It’s hard to believe that the summer of 2017 is already behind us and our kids are back to school, and the rest of us have returned to our normal work schedule with the busyness that Fall always brings along! With school back -- a reminder to everyone to pay extra attention in school zones and to remember speeds are reduced to 40km/h in those areas. Let’s make sure we keep our kids safe!
New LED Streetlights
In recent weeks, you may have noticed crews working in your neighbourhoods beginning to change the streetlights. In fact, over 16000 streetlights throughout the City of Kitchener are being changed to these new lights. As part of the installation, we are also installing special adaptors that will operate as a narrow-band network, allowing us to test and implement various other Smart City technologies throughout the community in the future. These new lights, once fully implemented will allow us to better control lighting levels in neighbourhoods, are more environmentally sustainable and will save us operating dollars.
City of Kitchener Innovation Lab Opens Soon
On September 5th, Karl Allen-Muncey started at the City of Kitchener as the first Director of our Civic Innovation Lab at Communitech. Amongst the first of its kind in North America, the lab comes from a recommendation in our City of Kitchener Digital Strategy approved earlier this year. Karl, some yet-to-be hired interns and seconded city staff will be working on various aspects of civic innovation in the future -- all part of our direction to see Kitchener be a smart city in terms of services and service delivery in the future. Stay tuned for an official opening of the lab, later this Fall.
Mayor’s Economic Development Mission to Germany
This month I will be involved in an economic development mission to Germany with both Communitech and the Waterloo Region Economic Development Corporation. Many of you might recall Mayor’s Craig and Jaworsky participating last year, and at the time the decision was made to hold off with my participation until this year so as to maximize effectiveness and resources. With Communitech, I’ll be joining a delegation of local tech leaders participating in Berlin’s Start-up Night festival, meeting with leading incubators and innovation companies and also with recently appointed Ambassador Stéphane Dion and his officials. The time with the Communitech delegation will then be followed with site visits and meetings with our Waterloo EDC and City of Kitchener Economic Development officials to various German companies already in our region and also with those who are looking to grow their Canadian presence and Waterloo region is of primary interest. Stay tuned for future updates about some of the follow-up from this mission.